Weathering the Storm of Climate Change and Its Impact on Health Equity
News Flash! January through June 2021 was the eighth warmest such period on record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The other day my Amazon Show informed me about the melting ice in Greenland. The red tide algae bloom in Florida was hard to miss as the news reported disturbing images of dead fish piled up on the ocean’s shoreline. Weather reporters shared that Hurricane Ida did not slow down, hitting land with full force due to the warm ocean temperatures.
Does this impact you? Yes, according to a climate emergency editorial simultaneously published in approximately 200 medical journals in September 2021.
Public Health Danger
Climate change is the greatest danger to public health, according to the editorial. It goes on to state that no rise in temperature is safe, and we can’t wait until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic to act on this emergency. World leaders must cut heat-trapping emissions now to avoid “catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.”
You may be shocked to learn that some of the public health dangers include:
- Heat exhaustion, dehydration, renal function loss, other heat-related illnesses
- Asthma exacerbation, pulmonary issues
- Cardiovascular problems
- Migration of disease carrying insects, tropical infections
- Skin cancers
- Pregnancy complications
- Mental health challenges
- Soil depletion, decline in major crop yields, food insecurity, malnutrition
- Eroding water quality and supply
- Increased chance for pandemics
The World Health Organization estimates that climate change will be responsible for an additional 250,000 deaths per year beginning in 2030. The outcomes of climate change are already putting a strain on public health systems, including an increase in hospital Emergency Department visits.
Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE)
President Biden signed an Executive Order in January 2021, calling climate considerations “an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.” The outcome of that Executive Order included the August 2021 Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announcement of the new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), in recognition of climate issues and their impact, particularly on marginalized communities. The mission of the new Office is “to protect the health of people throughout the US in the face of climate change, especially those experiencing a higher share of exposures and impacts.”
Social Determinants of Health have drawn a lot of attention over the last few years. According to HHS, “Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” Climate change impacts every environment worldwide, and not proportionately. Health inequities lead to health disparities and the OCCHE plans to address those inequities.
The public and private sectors must work together to slow the progression of these damaging effects and stop the negative impacts of climate change on the environment and our public health. Centauri is happy to assist our health plan and health system clients in any way we can. Let us know how we can help.
Shanna Hanson, FHFMA, ACB
Manager, Business Knowledge
Centauri Health Solutions, Inc.