This paper uses articles from the American Public Health Association (APHA) to investigate a public health issue that is related to climate change within the United States health care delivery system and examine its effect on a specific population. APHA is a founding organization of Climate for Health Initiative and partners with other organization such EcoAmerica to form a network of health leaders with a goal to protect the well-being and health of Americans and lead by example on a path to a positive future for global climate change solutions (American Public Health Association, 2016). In the last five decades, human activities have contributed mainly to climate change. The burning of fossil fuels has mostly released a large quantity of carbon dioxide as well as other greenhouse gases that trap extra heat in the lower atmosphere thus affecting the global climate. In the last 13 decades, the global temperature has warmed by approximately 0.850C. Each of the past three decades has been successively warmer compared to any preceding decade since 1950 (Maibach, Chuk, Ebi, & Balbus, 2008). As a result, sea levels have risen, glaciers have been continually melted, and precipitation patterns have been changing steadily. The ongoing temperature rise is expected to increase these changes.
Intense weather events such as flooding, droughts, hurricanes, snowfalls, and rainfalls have become more extreme and frequent. Though climate change may result to some localized advantages like increased food production in specific regions and fewer deaths in winter in temperate climates, the overall effects on the health of global warming likely to be overwhelmingly negative in the near future (American Public Health Association, 2018). Presently, climate change affects almost every environmental and social determinants of health including safe drinking water, clean air, sufficient foods, and secure shelters. In 2003 for instance, the summer heat wave in the United States claimed over 70,000 lives because the extremely high air temperatures contributed directly to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, especially among seniors members of the community.
In 2017, APHA held an Annual Meeting & Expo from 4th to 8th November to discuss how extreme heat waves have affected many states such as St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Florida (American Public Health Association, 2018). According to APHA, Florida, is one of the states located around the Gulf coasts and Atlantic has been experiencing extreme weather conditions due to climate change. Some of these weather events include extreme heat waves, intense hurricanes, raging storms, and increased sea levels. Temperatures in the State of Florida are predicted to exceed historical records by over 9oF given that since 1970, U.S temperatures have continued to rise by an average of 2oC every decade (American Public Health Association, 2018). Heat waves are unhealthy and pose a danger to vulnerable populations such as the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.
According to the American Public Health Association, heat stroke is the worst heat-related disorder, and it happens when an organism’s body is unable to regulate its body temperatures. As the temperature rises, the sweat system fails, and the body cannot cool down. If one fails to get emergency treatment, it results in permanent disabilities or death. Extreme air temperatures lead to dehydration which can damage the nervous and cardiovascular system (American Public Health Association, 2016). High air temperatures also lead to the formation of ground-level ozone which is a significant component of smog. This ground-level ozone causes various health issues such as aggravating lung diseases including asthma thus increasing the risk of premature death.
The increased heat levels also warm the Atlantic Ocean causing sea levels to rise and allowing the air to hold more moisture. Apart from causing lung diseases such as asthma, such surface temperatures cause very powerful hurricanes which affect human life in detrimental ways (Keellings, & Waylen, 2014). When Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017, it became the first Category 4 hurricane that has ever caused so much destruction since Hurricane Charley in 2004. This hurricane took millions of Floridians by surprise as it intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane in a matter of 36 hours which is extremely unusual. More so, with the rising sea levels caused by the melting ice, cities in Florida, beachfront homes, infrastructure as well as Florida’s ecosystems are in danger (Keellings, & Waylen, 2014). Research shows that as compared to all other states in the United States, Florida has the most to lose because of the rising sea levels. In the next two decades, over 64,000 homes in Florida will be located in flood-prone areas facing a catastrophic even very weak.
Summarily, climate change has led to extremely high air temperatures which send deadly heat waves to Florida and beyond. The number of Floridians seeking medical attention due to cardiovascular diseases, heat stroke, and asthma has increased in the last three decades. People must stop thinking of the effects of climate changes in terms of melting glaciers, floods, and starving polar bears but in terms of how climate change is affecting their immediate health. APHA has continued to hold Climate for Health campaigns to raise awareness of how climate change is affecting human health. The APHA has particularly emphasized the need to reduce the release of heat-trapping gases like CO2 to avoid the destruction of the ozone layer.
American Public Health Association, (2016). Climate change, health, and equity: a guide for local health departments. Retrieved from, https://www.apha.org//media/files/pdf/topics/climate/guide_section4.ashx?la=en&hash=118F4FD2E4719EF51A76C0B0865BAEF57BEB7EDB
American Public Health Association, (2018). Extreme heat. Retrieved from https://www.apha.org/~/media/files/pdf/factsheets/climate/extreme_heat.ashx
Keellings, D., & Waylen, P. (2014). Increased risk of heat waves in Florida: Characterizing changes in bivariate heat wave risk using extreme value analysis. Applied Geography, 46, 90-97.
Maibach, E. W., Chuk, M., Ebi, K. L., & Balbus, J. (2008). Climate change and local public health in the United States: preparedness, programs, and perceptions of local public health department directors. PLoS One, 3(7), e2838.