Study shows most health department directors see climate change as looming health threat

Jul 29, 2008

A new study from George Mason University reveals that while a majority of U.S. health department directors believe their city or county will have serious public health problems as a result of climate change within the next 20 years, very few of them have planned or implemented activities to detect, prevent or adapt to these health threats.

Edward Maibach, professor and director of the Center for Climate Change Communication and lead author of the study, wanted to understand how directors of local public health departments view, and are responding to, climate change as a public health issue.

"Relatively few Americans, businesses and policymakers are aware of the consequences that climate change is likely to have on the health of our communities, families and children," says Maibach. "Our research shows that most, if not all, local health departments are going to require assistance in making climate change adaptation and prevention a priority and must take action now to ensure climate change does not become an increasing global threat."

The study "Climate Change and Local Public Health in the United States: Preparedness, Programs and Perceptions of Local Public Health Department Directors," which will be published this week in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, reveals that the majority of health department directors believed that threats such as heat waves or heat-related illnesses, reduced air quality and reduced water quality or quantity were most likely to become more common or severe as a result of climate change.

The study also suggests that several key factors may contribute to local health departments' lack of preparedness. Most survey respondents felt that the personnel in their health department – and other key stakeholders in their community – had a lack of knowledge about climate change, that little help was currently available from state and federal public health officials, and that they needed additional funding, staff and staff training to respond effectively to climate change.

"The reason why so many Americans view climate change as a threat to other species rather than as a threat to people may be in part because health professionals have been largely silent on the issue," says Maibach. "By using the opportunities available to them, public health and health care professionals can educate people on the threats of climate change to their health and wellbeing."

Source: George Mason University

Explore further: MEPs back plans to slash use of plastic shopping bags

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

15 hours ago

Science has often come to the rescue when it comes to the world's big problems, be it the Green Revolution that helped avoid mass starvation or the small pox vaccine that eradicated the disease. There is ...

Better climate predictions within grasp

Apr 14, 2014

that will improve our understanding of the consequences of climate change and could save the global economy up to $30 trillion - has received funding to develop a more detailed design of the technology and identify partners. ...

Cost of fighting warming 'modest,' says UN panel

Apr 13, 2014

The cost of keeping global warming in check is "relatively modest," but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the head of the U.N.'s expert panel ...

Recommended for you

Researchers question emergency water treatment guidelines

13 hours ago

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) recommendations for treating water after a natural disaster or other emergencies call for more chlorine bleach than is necessary to kill disease-causing pathogens ...

European climate at the +2 C global warming threshold

15 hours ago

A global warming of 2 C relative to pre-industrial climate has been considered as a threshold which society should endeavor to remain below, in order to limit the dangerous effects of anthropogenic climate change.

Australia's dirty secret: who's breathing toxic air?

17 hours ago

Australians living in poorer communities, with lower employment and education levels, as well as communities with a high proportion of Indigenous people, are significantly more likely to be exposed to high ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 29, 2008
Ed Maibach is a marketing guy. He is in this to change the way you think. He is in it for the money. and he makes plenty. He left the National Cancer Institute about four years ago because new financial disclosure requirements invaded his privacy. In other words, he would have to tell everyone about his conflicts of interest.

This is a "science" site???

3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 29, 2008
The study "will be published"?

You mean you are accepting the results of a study which has not been published, and which has been placed here by a public relations guy??

Please tell me you are pulling this article.

Thanks in advance,
Mike Bryant
3.9 / 5 (8) Jul 29, 2008
"Most health directors" are big liberal bureaucrats too, I'm sure just a purely coincidental and totally irrelevant fact only Fox News or some other horrible conspiratorial news source would seize upon to try to distort the facts, right?

Recent survey by Investor's Business Daily shows OVERWHELMING (like 12:1) political giving by reporters is to Democrats. Party registration survey showed similar results. But there is no bias in media (except at Fox of course, where they are all evil right wing racists, right)...

To call this a science site is sort of like calling a bank robber (or a Democrat) an economist. Maybe once in a while they swerve into something having remotely to do with the topic but for all the wrong reasons...
3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 30, 2008
It is too bad that these public health officials are putting all of their eggs in the warming basket because it is cooling and will get worse. Cold is far more dangerous for people than hot weather. However, they don't intend to teach people how to sruvive in the cold.

What do public health officials know about weather and climate anyway?
4 / 5 (5) Aug 01, 2008
Very few of these global warming stories get rated a 4 or higher....can we please just stop posting them? Not many here honestly care or believe it really.
1 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2008
You sure about that? I never said it was purely a man-made problem, but we are contributors. I'd like to know why the anti-GW'ers are also likely the same ones making accusations on the validity of the research cited here, that the researchers are just trying to get on the public dole. Seems like pretty brainless tripe to me.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2008
Ok, I checked it out and this article was published. The article took a little more effort than I originally thought. For this I apologize. However, I still clearly see that this agenda driven study should be more properly called a survey of 133 local health department directors.

More news stories

Melting during cooling period

( —A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling ...