About the Author: Sarah Goldfarb serves as DipNote's Associate Editor. Sarah will be providing information from presentations about key climate programs and scientific research at the U.S. Center at the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16) in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 through December 10, 2010.
In recent years, the United States has expanded its activities studying the health aspects of climate change and is making a strong commitment to minimizing public health consequences. At the U.S. Center on December 3, leading scientists and researchers described the current understanding of health priorities related to climate change and showcased how the United States is working at home and abroad to assess and prevent adverse health outcomes related to climate change.
Dr. John Balbus and his team at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences work to protect the health of humans and build population resiliency, while responding to climate change. He said that the challenges of climate change include integrating climate science into public health practice, as well as dealing with competing priorities.
Dr. Balbus discussed the federal government's efforts to minimize the negative health effects of climate change. In the United States, the American Public Health Association and the federal government have made the human health impacts of climate change a priority. Within the federal government, Dr. Balbus described how they are implementing a new model of end-to-end science for climate change responses. For example, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is leading efforts to identify the health impacts of climate change and the populations most vulnerable to these impacts; anticipate future trends; assure that systems are in place to detect and respond to emerging health threats; and take steps to assure that these health risks can be managed now and in the future. Likewise, the National Institute of Health has increased funds to research the effects of climate change on human health.
The United States is also working with its international partners to address the threat of climate change to human health. Dr. Balbus discussed partnerships, like the SERVIR Project, which aims to solve society's pressing development challenges, including adapting to climate change.
The United States will continue supporting the Global Change Research Program Strategic Plan revision and working with its international partners at the World Health Organization, and regionally with the Pan American Health Organization. Dr Balbus said, "Our health is inextricably linked to our environment. Environmental changes related to global climate change, resulting from such phenomena as heat waves, sea level rise, extreme weather events, and changes in precipitation, will significantly impact human health. Monitoring and predicting such changes on our dynamic planet is a critical element in protecting both human and ecosystem health."
You can learn more by reading NIEHS' climate report, "A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change."Become a fan of the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science on Facebook and follow all of the action at COP-16. You can find press releases, program events, transcripts, presentations from the U.S. Center and more on state.gov/cop16.