For more than 10 years, communities around the country have celebrated National Public Health Week to help protect and improve the public’s health. As part of that goal, we choose one issue to rally around each year. This year we will focus on what many say is one of our biggest challenges: Climate change.
While we’re still learning about all of the connections between health and climate change, we know human health will be affected. As our environment changes, so does our health — and the outlook is far from rosy.
Here in the United States, changes in our climate are causing more severe weather events. These extreme weather conditions, such as heat waves, high winds, snow storms, floods and hurricanes, have the potential to dramatically affect the health and safety of both individuals and communities. Changing ecosystems that allow for emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases like dengue or malaria change the spectrum of disease risks that affect populations. In poorer parts of the world, drought or floods often force people to move away from lands that can no longer produce enough food. Hunger and malnutrition often come as a result. In addition, contamination of drinking water results in outbreaks of diarrheal diseases on a large scale, with resultant dehydration and death.
The threats of climate change to the health of people around the globe are real. The issues can sometimes seem too big to address, but we have the power to slow events down and at the same time create healthier people in healthier communities.
Across the country, public health workers are making the connection between the way we live our lives, our impact on the planet and the planet’s impact on our health. More and more we believe what’s good for the planet is good for our health. By pointing out these links, we can help Americans make better choices and lead lifestyles that are healthier for them, their communities and the climate.
Please join us as we work to create a healthier planet and celebrate National Public Health Week, April 7-13, 2008, with the theme "Climate Change: Our Health in the Balance."
— Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of the American Public Health Association