Dr. John Balbus was recently awarded an HHS Green Champions Award for developing the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Healthcare Facilities Initiative, released June 2013, as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan.
Photo: Steve McCaw
NIEHS helped develop the recently released health-related aspects of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA). The assessment emphasized that climate change, once considered an issue for the distant future, has moved firmly into the present, with impacts on human health.
“The real importance of this NCA report, compared to the previous two, is that it is very much oriented to the general public,” said NIEHS senior advisor for public health Dr. John Balbus, a lead author for the human health chapter. “People are much more engaged than with previous assessments.”
As part of the strategy to reach a more general audience, the report’s web site, www.globalchange.gov, is deliberately visual and interactive, with graphics and short summaries of key points, noted Balbus. The extensive media attention the report received often emphasized health, such as the effects of climate change on allergens, asthma and vector-borne diseases.
The chapter on health includes messages on impacts that range from changes in disease-borne illness, such as through the expanding range of the tick that carries Lyme disease, to impacts of decreased air quality, threats to vulnerable populations and public health actions that can help protect from existing and emerging threats.
The NCA focuses on the U.S., but makes clear that climate change is a global health problem. As a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health, NIEHS is sharing the findings with counterparts in other countries.—Paula Whitacre