White House Releases Report on Climate Change Health Impacts

Coming on the heels of the release of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) and the June 2 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon pollution standards, the White House has released a report entitled, “The Health Impacts of Climate Change on Americans.” Echoing the NCA’s scientific findings, the report delivers a message of responsible planet stewardship for the benefit of future generations.

The report highlights six threats to health that are amplified by climate change. These include various forms of air pollution, infectious disease, and two of the United States’ most deadly weather-related hazards: wildfires and flooding. Through vivid infographics, the report shows how and where states are feeling the health effects.

Asthma is a major focus of the report. Climate change exacerbates asthma through multiple channels (higher particulate pollution, ground-level ozone) and the impacts are widely felt, as eight percent of Americans are diagnosed with the chronic illness. Report authors stress that asthma disproportionately affects children and minorities: African American children are twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma as whites, and are more likely to die from asthma, while Latino children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than white children. Such statistics underscore the importance of applying a health lens to climate change, although the report also addresses asthma’s economic burden.

The June 6 report offers an overview of existing action plans for climate change mitigation, specifically President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the EPA Clean Power Plan. The White House asserts that, “In the first year that [the Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan] go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and up to 2,100 heart attacks will be prevented. These standards will also help more kids to be healthy enough to show up to school – with up to 72,000 fewer absences in the first year. The benefits increase each year from there.”

The report closes with a list of other mitigation efforts underway, like CDC’s Climate Ready States and Cities Initiative. To read the 7-page report, click here. Then tell us what you think – does the report accurately capture climate change’s domestic health effects? Or are there other, unmentioned areas that your local health departments are facing?

About Erin Roberts

Erin Roberts, MPH, is a Program Analyst on the Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness, and Catastrophic Response team at NACCHO. Her work includes broadening the public's access to medical countermeasures during a severe pandemic, fostering collaboration between public health and pharmacy, and contributing to NACCHO's food safety initiatives.

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