Clinical Review

Hotspots in climate change and human health

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7372.1094 (Published 09 November 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1094
  1. Jonathan A Patz, director, programme on health effects of global environmental change (jpatz@jhsph.edu)a,
  2. R Sari Kovats, co-director, Centre on Global Change and Healthb
  1. a Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
  2. b Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT

    The health effects of climate change will affect vulnerable low income populations first, and this review provides convincing evidence of the public health importance of monitoring hotspots of climate change and health

    Is climate change a serious threat to health? According to the most recent international assessments it unquestionably is, although its impact depends on where you live, your age, access to health care, and your public health infrastructure.14 Arguably, climate change is one of the largest environmental and health equity challenges of our times; wealthy energy consuming nations are most responsible for the emissions that cause global warming, yet poor countries are most at risk. In a globalised world, however, the health of populations in rich countries is affected as a result of international travel, trade, and human migration. Mapping “hotspots” of ecological risk has proved to be a useful construct for prioritising and focusing resources to stem the threat of losing biodiversity. Similarly, identifying hotspots in climate change and human health may help public health practitioners in anticipating and preventing any additional burden of disease.

    Summary box

    Health effects from climate change will stem from altered temperatures, extremes of precipitation (floods and droughts), air pollution, and infectious diseases

    Although risk may be low compared with current acute health crises, the attributable burden of such a widespread global phenomenon may be quite high

    Any region or population with concurrent environmental or socioeconomic stresses will be at risk

    Long term disease surveillance must be maintained or established in suspected hotspots of climate change and health risks to enhance detection and prevention of disease

    Climate change represents one of the greatest environmental and health equity challenges of our times; wealthy energy consuming nations are most responsible for global warming, yet poor countries are at most risk

    Clinicians should recognise these …

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