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Too often left unsaid: the link between climate change and health | FIU news

Too often left unsaid: the link between climate change and health |  FIU news


People around the world face increased risk of heatstroke, asthma attacks and malnutrition. Understanding the drivers behind these growing health threats remains critical to solving them.

That message came through loud and clear when FIU hosted a gathering of top national experts around its new Population Health Initiativea 20-year research effort aimed at advancing health through university-wide collaboration.

Gathering of more than 50 experts recently in it Washington, DC, downtownthe university took the lead in drawing attention to a global issue: the link between climate change and human health.

That link will have ever-greater consequences as the planet continues on a warming trajectory, having just experienced its hottest year on record, leaders say.

“I was in Orlando a year or so ago and I heard from the farm workers,” said Admiral Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health for the US Department of Health and Human Services. “Due to the effects of extreme heat and dehydration, it is common to have significant kidney damage.”

The President of the National Academy of Medicine Dr. Victor Dzau shared data from the world's largest investigation of global climate-related mortality. More than five million extra deaths a year can be attributed to abnormally hot and cold temperatures, according to the international study.

In addition, about 700,000 deaths are due to insect-borne diseases, among them malaria and dengue, the result of an increasingly warmer climate that is more conducive to the breeding of mosquitoes and associated pests.

A study in the European medical journal The Lancet in November reported that global warming caused by climate change could worsen mortality from respiratory diseases. High temperatures lead to an increase in pollutants and allergens, and poor air quality leads to decreased lung function, increased risk of asthma complications, heart attacks, heart failure and death, the publication said.

Hunger and malnutrition are projected to worsen. Hotter and drier conditions are projected to reduce the amount of agricultural products grown in the coming decades, which is likely to lead to food insecurity. Quality will also suffer, scientists say, as crops will contain higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, which will reduce their protein, zinc and iron content.

“The public needs to know this is a public health crisis,” Dzau said. “The story you hear never mentions the health issues enough,” he said of communicating the seriousness of how climate change will affect population well-being.

Dzau and other speakers pointed out that communities and underserved groups in general will have it worst if no action is taken.

Director of the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institute of Health Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable noted current research addressing care disparities faced by racial and ethnic minorities, those living in rural areas, and people with disabilities. He reiterated that the ill effects of a changing climate will also disproportionately affect the marginalized.

FIU's Population Health Initiative is partnering with the University of Washington's Population Health Initiative and will work to find solutions in the areas of health economics, lifelong health, infectious and chronic diseases, and population variability. climate and community sustainability. University of Washington President Ana Marie Cauce joined FIU President Kenneth A. Jessell at the event to highlight their shared commitment to working together on critical challenges.

FIU Senior Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Andrés G. Gil has pledged the human capital and other resources needed for success.

“Population-level health impacts are complex, with many contributing factors such as the economy, environment and access to preventive health care,” Gil said. “FIU has a large cadre of researchers and research teams from various disciplines who will work together to find long-term solutions that can be implemented by local, regional, global and private stakeholders.”

Six FIU faculty colleagues representing various disciplines attended the event, among them Mariana Sanchez, an associate professor of public health. “One of the steps is to really emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations and solving these critical issues as they relate to climate and health and all the other priority areas,” she said. “It's so multifaceted that we have to work together to solve these complex structural problems.”

Seven students also participated as part of a Women and Health Care fly-in, a learning opportunity that gave them direct access to leading authorities and important conversations. “I learned that climate change is much more important than we think,” he said Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova, a senior studying health services administration. “Action is needed now.”

The focus on the link between climate and health showcased FIU's twin institutional pillars of environmental sustainability and health. The latest meeting, which attracted members of Florida's congressional delegation, followed on the heels of FIU's gathering earlier this month of industry leaders and professionals interested in climate resilience technology. FIU has joined forces with local governments to advance the newly appointed South Florida Climate Resilience Technical Centerfocused on sustainable and resilient infrastructure solutions to address the global climate crisis.

Student Rhobie Toussaint contributed to this article.

See the full program of expert presentations and discussions.
View a photo album from the event.




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