Impact of Climate Change a Public Health Concern

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Climate change and its adverse impact on public health is becoming a cause for concern for local and regional health authorities.

Minister of Health, John Boyce, made the assertion today, while speaking at the opening of a two-day PAHO/WHO Caribbean Climate Change and Human Health workshop at the Amaryllis Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church.

The Health Minister suggested that there was a need for further research to demonstrate the link between climate change and disease ??? not only as it related to infectious diseases but also non-communicable diseases.

He cited Type 2 diabetes as one such non-communicable disease which climate change impacted.

??????An increasing body of evidence shows that diabetes and climate change are directly linked. People with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes are more vulnerable to the adverse health impacts of climate change. In hotter temperatures, dehydration and heat stroke increase morbidity and mortality in people with diabetes.

???People with diabetes are also predisposed to cardiovascular events during heat waves and higher mortality and heart attacks on days of high air pollution. It is clear then that the appropriate public health measures must be put in place to deal with these likely adverse outcomes,??? Mr. Boyce explained.

He said climate change and global warming were negatively impacting the environmental determinants of health, namely, clean air, safe drinking water, food and shelter.

???According to the WHO, between 1970 and 2004, global warming had caused over 140,000 excess deaths a year and is being estimated to cost between US $2 billion and $4 billion per year by 2030 in direct damage to health,??? he stated.

Mr. Boyce added that Small Island Developing States were particularly vulnerable and that analysis by experts revealed numerous long-term environmental challenges in climate when it came to the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

He posited that climate change was the ???biggest global health threat of the 21st century??? and in order to protect the health of the most vulnerable regions and people, tackling the phenomenon was no longer a choice but an imperative. He acknowledged that management of the health effects of climate change would require concerted efforts from all sectors of Government and civil society as well as collaboration between academia and industry.

???Our strategy must include policies that will result in a reduction of carbon emissions in the larger economies of the world and in our region. In 2012, WHO identified diesel fumes as carcinogenic and still more recently stated that our atmosphere is so polluted that the air we breathe, if left unchecked, will speedily become a hazard to our health. There is also???sea level rise which will amplify sea surges in coastal areas and storms will likely be more intense.

???It is evident then that Small Island States like those in the Caribbean region must recognise that mitigating and adapting to the causes and impacts of climate change requires greater cooperation and coordination both at the regional and international levels. PAHO/WHO continues to be a regional and international partner in creating awareness of these issues and this workshop is testimony to this commitment,??? he said.

melissa.rollock@barbados.gov.bb

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