Within the climate change discussion, some doctors are suggesting that the medical profession turn more of its attention to the potential health problems that may arise as the Earth gets hotter and as weather gets more extreme. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study today, September 22, about the adverse effects climate change may have on public health.
The study focuses on re-evaluating the health problems currently thought to be associated with climate change, specifically global warming effects. The authors of the study conclude that all doctors have a responsibility to speak out against climate change, because a warming Earth doesn't only spell danger for the planet and its resources, but for patients as well. There are significant health benefits from curbing climate change.
The study analyzed five years of medical research related to climate change, from 2009 to 2014. The authors found that waves of heat, drought and floods associated with global warming will be a problem for public health in the future. The authors suggested doing what we can to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to curb the effects of global warming as much as possible. The medical profession also needs to adapt to a wave of potential incoming health problems, the study says.
The steps proposed in the study to curb global warming include using sustainable energy, using more environmentally-friendly transportation, and cutting the use of greenhouse gases. The study called these changes "feasible, cost-effective, and attractive to multiple parties."
Howard Bauchner, MD, and Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD, in an editorial on the study, write that although global warming may seem like something outside of medical concern, it is important for physicians to address any and all world conditions that cause health problems.
"Today, in the early part of the 21st century, it is critical to recognize that climate change poses the same threat to health as the lack of sanitation, clean water, and pollution did in the early 20th century," they wrote.
Climate change may very well have a significant impact on public health if it continues at this rate. The authors of the JAMA study conclude that increased climate change could lead to an increase in the number of infectious illnesses, water-borne diseases and respiratory conditions such as asthma. Heat exposure is also a prime concern. The CDC published a study showing that from 2006-2010, about 2,000 people in the U.S. died every year from weather-related causes. About 31 percent of those died from excessive heat exposure; 63 percent died from excessive exposure to the cold, or hypothermia. As climate change continues, heat and cold conditions will become more and more extreme.