Wind, heat, rain, snow and severe storms have long been blamed for interruptions to the nation's overall infrastructure, but federal and state officials are more carefully studying changing weather patterns as a direct threat to human health.
WASHINGTON – Wind, heat, rain, snow and severe storms have long been blamed for interruptions to the nation’s overall infrastructure, but federal and state officials are more carefully studying changing weather patterns as a direct threat to human health.
“Climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of storms, like heat waves, and will increase the intensity of major storms, like hurricanes, and these have a broad range of impacts on health,” says Dr. George Luber, epidemiologist and associate director of the Climate and Health Program, a project established at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009.
Luber discusses three primary ways climate change affects the health of humans. These factors include an increase in heat, compromised access to care and changes in disease ecology. Each varies in severity depending on geographical location.
The CDC is not the only institution connecting changing weather patterns to more intensified health problems. Other government agencies and national organizations are delving into the subject, as well. And data show the general public is becoming increasingly aware of climate change’s impact on human health.
A recent survey from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and George Mason University found 70 percent of Maryland respondents consider air pollution — more than obesity — the primary concern when it comes to personal health.
Insect-borne diseases, violent storms and polluted drinking water also topped the list. Fifty-three percent of Maryland respondents say violent storms are becoming more common health problems in their communities, and 48 percent of survey respondents say climate change is a health problem in their communities.
“The link between climate change and public health is one that I think people are becoming increasingly aware of, and we are trying to think about ways that we, as a public health community, can and should be participating in that planning for climate change,” says Dr. Clifford Mitchell, director of the Environmental Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“What we’ve learned is people not only look at the link between extreme weather events and health