Global health centre
23 September 2014

Action on climate change a ‘win-win’ for health and planet

A new study reviews the science behind some of the current and projected climate-related health risks, including more extreme heat waves and storms; increased waterborne and infectious disease risks; more chronic health risks related to air pollution; and increased malnutrition and obesity-related risks from unhealthy, carbon-intensive, diets. GHP Visiting Professor Jonathan Patz presented the study “Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health” at the Civil Society Event on Action in Climate Change and Health in New York yesterday, ahead of the UN Climate Summit. Led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study seeks to encourage those actions which result in co-benefits that improve health while mitigating climate change.

“Climate change already is affecting global health,” says Patz, director of the UW-Madison Global Health Institute and lead author of the study. “The good news is that clear health benefits are immediately available, from low-carbon strategies that today could result in cleaner air or to more active transport options that can improve physical fitness, ultimately saving lives and averting disease.”

The new study relied on an interdisciplinary team of experts in public health, air quality and climate science and offers opportunities across sectors. The analysis lays out a number of science-based opportunities to reduce global consumption of fossil fuels while improving health. These include designing sustainable cities, eating less meat, enacting better carbon policies (the costs of which could be more than offset by the potential health benefits they afford) and promoting active transport like walking or biking to work.

“Evidence shows there is a significant health benefit in active transport, particularly in the area of chronic disease,” Patz says. “And with current disease trends in industrializing nations, burning less fossil fuel can yield potentially large dividends for public health.” Patz is optimistic about recent policy developments and he says the article presents “a blueprint” for the public health benefits possible “if we really took on climate change.”


Further information

Study: Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health

Modified from original article by Kelly April Tyrell