Climate change poses public health threat

Climate change will bring with it a set of problems that will have a particular impact on the environmental health profession, a conference heard this week.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) hosted its An Unhealthy Climate – a call for action and changing behavior event at its London headquarters on Thursday where it looked at the issue of changing weather patterns from a new angle.

While we’re all aware of the big-picture problems like drought, floods and melting ice caps, environmental health practitioners will face their own professional challenges, the conference heard.

The threat of pest-borne diseases currently rare or unheard of in the UK, together with storing food in warmer weather conditions and securing a safe food supply are all likely to come to the fore in future years.

Graham Jukes, CIEH chief executive, said: “Climate change presents one of the most significant challenges to public health we have ever faced, putting at risk the very pillars of life: clean water, sanitation, air quality and food.

“We believe that health must be at the heart of action on climate change. It must be embedded in the political debate, in strategies to change how we live and in how we plan for the future.

“Environmental health practitioners (EHPs) have a key role to play in this process. Many aspects of environmental health are crucial to mitigating and adapting to the effects of global warming.

“EHPs have the expertise and skills to develop activities and interventions to help reduce carbon emissions but also prepare for the effects of things such as more frequent heat waves and floods, food and water shortages, a rise in infectious diseases and in the incidence of pests and even population movements.”

Sam Bond

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