Global Climate Change:  Implications for Public Health


Earth from spaceOverview

There is widespread scientific consensus that the world’s climate is changing. Some of the effects of climate change are likely to include more variable weather, heat waves, heavy precipitation events, flooding, droughts, more intense storms such as hurricanes, sea level rise, and air pollution. Each of these changes has the potential to negatively affect health.

Climate change has the potential to impact health in many ways. While some of these are unpredictable, others (shown in the table) are supported by considerable evidence.

Weather Event Health Effects Populations Most Affected
Heat waves Heat stress Extremes of age, athletes, people with respiratory disease
Extreme weather events,(rain, hurricane, tornado, flooding) Injuries, drowning Coastal, low-lying land dwellers, low socio-economic sector
Droughts, floods, increased mean temperature Vector-, food- and water-borne diseases Multiple populations at risk
Sea-level rise Injuries, drowning, water and soil salinization, ecosystem and economic disruption Coastal, low socio-economic sector
Drought, ecosystem migration Food and water shortages, malnutrition Low socio-economic sector, elderly, children
Extreme weather events, drought Mass population movement, international conflict General population
Increases in ground-level ozone, airborne allergens, and other pollutants Respiratory disease exacerbations (COPD, asthma, allergic rhinitis, bronchitis) Elderly, children, those with respiratory disease
Climate change generally; extreme events Mental health Young, displaced, agricultural sector, low socio-economic sector

As the nation's public health agency, CDC is using its prevention expertise to address climate change and is preparing for the possibility of health effects related to climate change in the same way it prepares for the possibilities of bioterrorism and pandemic influenza. As part of these efforts, experts are making use of    the knowledge and experience gained from previous natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

CDC is uniquely poised to lead efforts to anticipate, prevent and respond to the broad range of effects on the health of Americans and the nation's public health infrastructure. CDC's expertise and programs in environmental health, infectious disease, and other fields form the foundation of public health efforts in preparedness for climate change.

This Public Health Grand Rounds program features nationally distinguished experts from CDC who discuss the case for the potential impact of climate change on the public’s health.  Also, they focus on various processes, tools and resources which are currently available, to support efforts to prepare for the affects of climate change in your state or community.