Washington, D.C., May 12, 2010 —
The American Public Health Association (APHA) and Trust for America's Health (TFAH) today recognized Senators Kerry and Lieberman for developing a bill to address climate change, but urged the Senate to add funding and policy provisions that are critical to helping states prepare for and respond to the public health effects of climate change. Provisions along these lines are included in the House-passed bill.
Climate change is expected to worsen many health problems, including heat- and other weather-related illness and injury, and diarrheal and other infectious diseases. TFAH’s 2009 report, Health Problems Heat Up: Climate Change and the Public's Health, examined U.S. planning for emerging health threats posed by climate change. The report found that only five states had published a strategic climate change plan that included a public health response. This includes planning for health challenges and emergencies expected to develop from natural disasters, pollution and infectious diseases as temperatures and sea levels rise.
A 2009 survey of members of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials found that only 30 percent of respondents reported having sufficient planning expertise to address climate change. A 2008 survey of local health directors found that 83 percent felt they lacked the expertise to craft strategic climate change response plans.
“In order to adequately address the threats posed by climate change, we must prioritize the public health response,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “It is imperative to develop the research base and also the capacity within health departments to ensure that everyone in our country is protected against the health threats posed by climate change. Critical funding for the public health response to climate change must be included in any climate bill that the Senate considers.”
A 2008 blueprint for tackling climate change released by APHA underscored the importance of a strong public health system in addressing the health impacts of climate change, especially in the areas of preparedness, prevention and research.
“Changes in our climate will profoundly affect the public’s health now and into the future,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of APHA. “Providing the resources needed to strengthen our nation’s public health system and capacity to prepare for and respond to these challenges should be an integral part of any comprehensive climate change legislation.”
Other bills addressing climate change, including the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733) and the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454), required the development of a national strategic action plan to assist health professionals in preparing for and responding to the impacts of climate change on public health. The bills also established a Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Fund to provide funding for the public health response to climate change. Both provisions were widely supported by the public health community.
Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. Visit www.healthyamericans.org to learn more.