Climate change affecting health


The Press Association, 25th January 2008

Climate change is putting global human health at risk and requires an "urgent response".

The health risks include those from heat waves, floods and wildfires, changes in infectious disease patterns, the effect of worsening food yields and loss of livelihoods, according to a paper published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Lead author Anthony McMichael said human actions were causing "unprecedented global environmental changes", including climate change, loss of bio-diversity and the exhaustion of fisheries.

The professor of public health at the Australian National University said this "weakening of the earth's life support systems" would hit the health of the most vulnerable populations the hardest.

Climate change could add 20-70 million people to the 110 million already living in regions prone to malaria epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa by the 2080s, he said.

Such increases would increase poverty and make it harder to achieve and sustain good health.

He said the links between climate change and human health were "complex".

For example, the drying-out of sub-Saharan Africa could also increase the incidence of HIV infection, with impoverished rural families moving to cities where conditions increase the likelihood of prostitution and unsafe sex.

In a paper entitled Global Environmental Change and Health, Prof McMichael said it was not possible to separate environmental considerations from health.

The World Health Organisation estimates that a quarter of the world's diseases are due to the contamination of air, water, soil and food, with the "environment related burden" much greater in low income countries.

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