The magazine of the UW School of Public Health

Northwest Public Health Fall/Winter 2008

Volume 25 Number 2

Climate Change:
Challenging Public Health

Now is the time for public health to prepare and adapt to the challenges of climate change. Climate model predictions have serious implications for public health in the Northwest, ranging from health problems related to extreme weather to more outbreaks of infectious diseases. Read about how public health workers are addressing these issues.

Climate Change: A New Challenge for Public Health
Gregg Grunenfelder
The head of Washington State’s Division of Environmental Health outlines the ways in which climate change could affect public health in the Northwest and suggests three strategies to reduce the impacts.

Climate Change: A Public Health Framework
Howard Frumkin and George Luber
Two authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) propose a public health approach to climate change, based on the essential public health services.

The New Generation of Practitioners
Darrah K. Kauhane-Floerke
Students in our graduate and undergraduate programs have an interest in global health that might serve them well in their careers, as they approach emerging diseases and other issues related to climate change.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint: Health Departments Lead by Example
Michael Heumann and Latrissa L. Neiworth
Governments throughout the Northwest are finding creative ways to reduce their carbon footprints ,and health agencies face special challenges.

Helping Health-care Providers Prepare for Extreme Weather
Michelle McDaniel
The King County Healthcare Coalition is helping adult family homes and other non-hospital providers plan for emergencies related to climate change.

Joining Forces to Address Climate Change: Alaska Communities Threatened by Coastal Erosion and Flooding
Jacqueline H. Poston and Larry Hartig
Alaska is on the forefront of climate change, which threatens the very survival of several native villages. A collaborative effort is providing support for tribal leaders.

Climate Change and Communicable Diseases in the Northwest
Paul Cieslak and Mel Kohn
Climate change may affect communicable diseases seen in the Northwest from cryptococcosis to West Nile encephalitis. Other than panic, what should be our response?

Monitoring Animal Diseases and Their Impact on Public Health in Wyoming
Karl Musgrave and Emily Thorp
Veterinarians may be the first to spot emerging zoonotic diseases. Wyoming has set up a statewide surveillance network to bridge the veterinary and public health sectors.

Animal and Zoonotic Diseases in Alaska as an Indicator of Climate Change
Michael Bradley
As global temperatures warm and species expand their ranges, they will bring their diseases with them. Alaska is enhancing its surveillance efforts for diseases that could spread to human populations.

Climate Change and Seafood Safety
Alison Scherer and Elaine Faustman
A University of Washington center is studying the effect of climate change on the susceptibility of Northwest seafood resources to biotoxins and bacterial contamination.
Climate Change and Idaho’s Treasure Valley

Air Quality: Potential Impact on Community Health
Leonard Herr and Uwe Reischl
Climate changes can influence seasonal weather patterns, affecting the health of vulnerable ppulations. Scientists in the Boise area are trying to stay ahead of the problem.

The Health Effects of Wildland Fires
Jane Q. Koenig
Warmer summers, forest diseases, and thunderstorms could increase the region’s susceptibility to wildland fires. This can affect the health of vulnerable populations and of firefighters.

Web specials

An Overview of Deaths Associated with Natural Events in the Northwest United States, 1979–2004
Robin Lee, Raquel Sabogal, Maria Thacker, and Alden Henderson
Extreme cold or heat accounted most deaths attributed to natural events across the United States—more lightning, storms and floods, and earth movements, such as earthquakes and landslides. Most of these deaths associated are preventable.

How Environmental Health Can Address Global Climate Change
Hilary Karasz and Ngozi Oleru
Environmental Health practice is in a position to document and respond to the impacts of climate change, and also to provide solutions to near-term and long-term problems.

Interagency Cooperation: Putting Emergency Preparedness to the Test
Kathleen Eussen and Doug Wangen
Lewis County, Washington, has had severe flooding the past two winters. Residents have gotten better, faster information about environmental health issues since 2007, when the health department was first asked to help staff the county's Emergency Communications Center.
2007 flood photos from WSDOT | 2009 flood photos from the Centralia Chronicle

Resources on Climate Change: Bibliography

Related links

Health Risks Rise With Temperatures for Outdoor Workers
Melanie Mesaros
When the mercury hits 90 degrees or more, working outdoors can be uncomfortable and, at times, unsafe. Workers run the risk of developing a heat-related illness when physical exertion is combined with high humidity.

Public Health Spotlight: 2007 Flood Response
Fact Sheets from the Oregon Public Health Division
As the waters recede and community members begin the cleanup and recovery efforts, it is important to be aware of potential hazards in and around flooded areas.

Carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases endanger public health, according to an Environmental Protection Agency ruling April 17, 2009. The proposed finding, which now moves to a public comment period, identified six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat. The study was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.
EPA announcement
New York Times' coverage
Chicago Tribune's coverage
Earlier article in The Nation's Health (APHA members only)

APHA Applauds Climate Change Bill that Will Help Protect Public Health
Press release, 5/8/2009

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public hearing in Seattle May 21 on climate change and public health. Visit the EPA's Web page on health and environmental effects of climate change. Media coverage:
KOMO News: Seattle hosts EPA climate change hearing
Seattle Times: EPA panel hears from governor, lawmakers, Starbucks
KUOW-FM: Climate Change Hearing Draws Hundreds to Seattle

The University of Washington School of Law hosted a conference May 28 and 29, 2009, "Three Degrees: The Law of Climate Change and Human Rights Conference." The conference Web site has useful resources.

California Wildfires of 2008: Coarse and Fine Particulate Matter Toxicity
Teresa C. Wegesser, Kent E. Pinkerton, and Jerold A. Last
A new study in Environmental Health Perspectives finds that particulate matter from California's wildfires was much more toxic to the lung on an equal weight basis than was PM collected from normal ambient air in the region.

Courts as Battlefields in Climate Fights
John Schwartz, New York Times, January 27, 2010
"Kivalina [featured in article by Poston and Hartig above], an Inupiat Eskimo village of 400 perched on a barrier island north of the Arctic Circle, is accusing two dozen fuel and utility companies of helping to cause the climate change that it says is accelerating the island’s erosion..."

Impacts of climate change on health in the Pacific Northwest
UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, Environmental Health News
CDC awarded a team of UW researchers nearly one million dollars over the next three years to study climate change in the Pacific Northwest and to use study findings to develop effective public health interventions.