Climate change: Direct and indirect impacts on health

(European Institute for Gender Equality, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr. Manish Kumar Gupta, a research associate at VA Healthcare medical center at Miami, FL. He is also affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Earth is the only planet in this solar system or plausibly in the entire universe where life is known to exist. The blue planet has a hospitable temperature and a veracious meld of elements that have made life possible on it. But, these adoring conditions are changing. Temperature is rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, leading to occurrence of extreme climate events- like hurricanes, wildfires, drought, heat waves and floods. Many of these observed changes are linked to the rising levels of CO 2 and other greenhouse gases. An accretion in concentration of such gases and other drivers alter the global climate and are bringing about myriad environmental and human health corollaries.

Climate change is often coalesced only with its effects on our physical environment. But increasing evidence shows its impact on human health in varied forms. The impacts of climate change on human health are broadly classified into direct and indirect. The major direct impact is an acclivity in number of deaths and diseases caused by extreme climate events. Global data unveiled that the number of weather-related natural disasters has more than tripled since the 1960s. Each year such disasters claim more than 60,000 fatalities and a pecuniary loss of $1.2 trillion, squaring to 1.6% of global GDP.

Indirect impacts of climate change have tantamounting effects on human health as direct ones. Global rise in temperature is frequently compeered with air pollution, and an increase in the amount of ozone gas. Air pollution mangles human health and is particularly nocuous for those who are highly susceptible due to their age like the older people and children or any health related conundrums. According to the WHO health reports, air pollution at extant levels is maneuvering an eloquent number of deaths, hospital admissions and exacerbations of symptoms, especially for cardiac and pulmonary diseases. An upwelling level of ozone owing to increased temperature could cause an exacerbation of Asthma, and is likely to be one of many causes of asthma development. Long-term exposure to ozone again could be chained to permanent lung damage. Furthermore, increasing temperature endues an immaculate milieu for the growth of vectors like mosquitoes, which are fabled for transmission of communicable diseases like dengue fever, malaria, chikungunya and Japanese Encephalitis. Such diseases are censurable for innumerable human morbidity and mortality especially among people living in tropical settings.

Future doctors can play a cardinal role in this globally yowling issue; since they are the ones who witness sufferings and deaths instigated by these conundrums on a daily basis. They apprehend that prevention is much advantageous rather than waiting for a disease to come off, when cure may not be of any help. Doctors are often considered as magisterial and trusted by their communities. Hence, their position in society can be employed to build support for action on climate change. Additionally, doctors can educate the common citizenry and policymakers to assure that they understand the momentousness of coaction quested to contrive a cleaner and safer planet for all of us.

About the author

Manish Kumar Gupta, a research associate at VA Healthcare medical center at Miami, FL. Born and brought up in heart of India i.e. New Delhi. His interests include a commitment to medically underserved population, preventive medicine and a love for teaching. By incorporating these interests in to a full service practice, Manish believes that can truly meet the needs of his community as well as his own personal goals. Other interests include reading geopolitical and other non-fiction literature, debating with people on geopolitical equations.

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