New Lancet Report: Climate Change Is Biggest Health Threat and Greatest Health Opportunity of 21st Century

climate change and healthFrom a rise in respiratory ailments caused by pollution, to the spread of vector-borne diseases like West Nile Virus, climate change is having an increasingly severe impact on public health. Yet 70 percent of Americans are still unaware of the link between climate and health. A new report by the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate, released yesterday, aims to raise awareness not only of the serious threats posed by climate change, but also of the direct health benefits of climate solutions.
 
The new report, entitled Health and Climate Change: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health, is a follow-up to the groundbreaking 2009 Lancet Commission Report, Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change. This first report, which was a collaboration between the highly respected medical journal The Lancet and University College London, UK, called climate change the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” The report described major potential risks both direct (such as asthma and increased cancer rates) and indirect (such as extreme weather and food insecurity).
 
Many of those impacts are indeed being felt, and as more doctors report seeing climate-related health effects in their patients, the health sector has advocated over and over again for action.
 
• Last December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held their first-ever Grand Rounds devoted to health and climate.
• In April of this year, the White House made climate change and health a major focus of National Public Health Week, releasing a fact sheet that outlined the Obama administration’s commitment to protecting communities from climate impacts.
• That same week, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy addressed the need to prevent health problems caused by climate change.
• And prominent health leaders like Gary Cohen of Health Care Without Harm have urged the health sector to divest from coal on moral grounds, as part of their obligation to protect the public’s health.
 
The new Lancet report examines the most recent health data, emphasizes the severity of the climate threat, and stresses the urgent need for climate action. But it doesn’t just focus on the threats. It also points out that addressing this challenge could be the “greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.” Solutions that help tackle climate change tend to have multiple co-benefits:
 
• Renewable energy means cleaner air; greener buildings and urban spaces promote mental health.
• Climate preparedness helps reduce injuries and displacement due to extreme weather.
• Smarter use of resources helps prevent food and water scarcity.
 
ecoAmerica and Climate Nexus have teamed up to help engage Climate for Health leaders in the release of this influential report. Through media training, the development of op-eds, and social media support, we are empowering leaders to spread the word about the Lancet findings.
 
Health is something that affects us all, but especially children, the elderly, and low-income populations. If you would like to join health leaders as they increase their efforts to help the public understand the significance of the Lancet report, join Climate for Health and lead America forward on climate solutions.

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