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Trust for America's Health Calls for More Funding, Attention to Climate Change

By Stacy Morford

Oct 26, 2009

Thirty-three U.S. states have strategic plans for dealing with climate change, but only five of those currently include a public health response. That’s a problem, health experts say in a report released today by the .

Global warming is already having serious effects on public health in the United States, from severe heat waves that threaten society's most vulnerable residents, to deadly diseases spreading northward, to worsening air pollution and smoke from wildfires that exacerbate respiratory ailments.

“We can see all these problems coming, but as a country we have not done enough to prepare for them,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Environment Group’s U.S. Global Warming Campaign. “We must take action to protect Americans and people around the world.”

In Health Problems Heat Up: Climate Change the Public’s Health, Trust for America’s Health calls on Congress to increase funding for public health research, education for citizens and public health care providers, and surveillance of water quality, air quality and diseases.

Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the non-profit Trust for America’s Health, also urged U.S. senators today to retain or increase the public health funding included in the House American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee starts working on its version of climate legislation this week. He hopes the debate will expand understanding of the impacts of climate change and lead to more support for action from government.

So far, the attention paid to the human health threats from climate change in the states and at the federal level has been minimal.

For example, 26 states have climate change commissions, but only 12 include their department of public health, Trust for America's Health found. Fifteen states have neither a climate change plan nor a commission.

More telling are the results of a released in January by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials that found only 13 of 43 state health officials believed their agency had sufficient planning capacity to address climate change; and only 11 thought their health department had sufficient response expertise.

Part of the problem is that research dollars are only now beginning to come in, said Linda Rudolph, director of California's Center for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Scientists don’t yet have the models that can predict what will happen at the local level — where public health agencies operate — and those warnings are what can drive public attention and resources.

"Currently, the majority of state and local health departments are not actively engaged in climate change planning and/or developing prevention strategies,” the report's authors write.

"At the federal level, public health is not a central consideration of the current research agenda, nor is there substantial funding to help state and local health departments build capacity to prevent and prepare for climate change.”

The for the CDC did include a $7.5 million boost for new climate change initiatives to develop and enhance programs to prepare for and adapt to health effects, and this year, the CDC began offering grants to state and local health departments to improve their climate response capacity. The 11 recipients: California; Florida; Michigan; Minnesota; New Hampshire; Austin/Travis County, Texas; Hennepin County, Minn.; Thurston County, Wash.; and Imperial, Mercer and Orange counties in California.

Attachment Size
Health Problems Heat Up-TFAH.pdf 1.77 MB
States Climate Action Plans.pdf 22.07 KB
Climate Change Health Impacts-TFAH.pdf 107.15 KB

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