Public Health and Climate

Planning for future heat waves. Invoking the "Oasis" effect.

Recent and substantial increases in heat and heat wave mortality and morbidity impel society to brace for heat events of even greater severity and duration. Unfortunately, research on the relationship between future heat increases and its health impacts generally overlooks how choice of exposure metric (mean, minimum & maximum temperature) effects downstream projections. Additionally, regional growth management plans are generally not incorporated into climate impact models. Both considerations are important for…

Wet Bulb Globe Temperature as New Heat Stress Exposure Metric

Health studies on the impact of heat waves have focused for the most part on using temperature differences and metrics such as humidity index to assign heat stress, but may not be fully accounting for the physiological response to heat. Algorithms that more accurately characterize exposure by including moisture terms to calculate Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) could improve heat stress studies. WBGT is a heat metric that more accurately reflects heat dissipation; or the ability of the atmosphere to allow

New Heat-Wave Hospitalization Risks Identified

Epidemiological evidence of non-communicable health impacts from extreme heat and heat-waves has been gaining as more epidemiological evidence continues to find positive associations with cardiovascular and respiratory mortality and hospital admissions. In a recent study from Dr. Jennifer F. Bobb et al. at the Harvard School of Public Health was able to go beyond cardiovascular and respiratory disease hospitalizations to identify previously unaccounted for cause-specific risks for hospitalizations in the Medicare…

Communicating Climate Change Health Impacts

There is overwhelming agreement from the scientific community regarding causes and impacts of climate change, while large segments of the US public still regard climate change as affecting the next generation and of low priority. Climate messaging that has focused on future increases in temperature and impacts such as rising sea levels could be aided by inclusion of direct health impacts and learn from targeted public health campaign strategies. Effectively communicating the health impacts of climate change and health…

Climatic Genesis for Historic Plague Epidemics?

The Black Death of 1347-1353 began the second of three plague pandemics that resulted in millions of deaths over four centuries. The disease was initially introduced from Asia and is believed to have persisted in European rodent populations until its disappearance in the early 19th century. Latest findings, however, offer an alternative explanation for how the disease may have re-occurred in Europe over a period of 400 years. Schmid et al. (2015) suggest that Yersinia pestis—a bacterium causing the plague—was repeatedly...

Perspectives in Lyme Disease Modeling

Lyme disease is one of the most frequently reported vector-borne diseases in the United States with an estimated 20,000 cases per year (Bacon et al., 2008). In the United States, it was first identified in a cluster of children in Lyme, CT in 1976 (Steere, 1989). While initially diagnosed as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, it was later diagnosed as Lyme arthritis, a late manifestation of tick-transmitted Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a tick-borne zoonosis caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, referred to as a spirochete. It is a multi-system inflammatory disease that first affects the

New Metric for Comparing Nations' Vulnerability to Infectious Disease

Understanding future health risks posed by infectious diseases due to anthropogenic climate change remains an important but poorly constrained challenge. It is clear that temperature and precipitation are primary drivers that determine the spatial distribution of host and vector distributions for a variety of infectious diseases. However, a unified metric or index to evaluate the vulnerability of individual countries to changes in infectious diseases had been missing, until a recent study published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health…

Vector Potential and Climate Change: Perspectives From the Pitcher-plant Mosquito. William Bradshaw

William Bradshaw presents a synopsis of his primary research which is on Wyeomyia smithy, a small mosquito that develops only within the water-filled leaves of the purple pitcher plant. As described on his website: “The fact that this mosquito is capable of blood-feeding makes it tractable for studies of the molecular genetics and evolution of the blood-feeding phenotype and for investigating the shifting patterns of vector/host interactions in the face of rapid climate change.

Climate Change Health Impacts: Extreme Heat, Heat Waves and Hospitalizations

Extreme heat events are anticipated to grow in number, intensity and length of duration as the effects of climate change increase over time. Increases in events such as heat waves from climate change could have large health implications on the elderly which are the most susceptible populations. Health studies of extreme heat and heat waves have focused predominantly on mortality outcomes, which may not adequately account for the burden on the US healthcare systems like Medicare…

Land-based Climate Mitigation Strategies Could Decrease Future Heat-related Mortality

Urban centers have been warming at double the global rate the last half-century. High daily temperatures are associated with increased mortality. Sustained increases in temperatures projected under most climate models represent a significant public health problem that may increase weather-related mortality in the United States. In a first of its kind study, Stone et al., (2014) modeled how local climate…

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