Public Health Laboratories Must be Ready to Respond to Climate Change Events

Climate change is a serious threat to the health and safety of all people in the US and across the globe. From increases in severe weather events and food system disruptions to harmful algal blooms and increases in the spread of diseases, the effects of climate change have grave implications for public health.

What is Climate Change?​​

According to the EPA, climate is a long-term average of weather events in a region, with the recognition that changes in weather can take place within minutes or hours. Climate change, however, represents trends over decades or centuries of average temperature, precipitation, frequency, length and intensity of weather events.

While the effects of climate change vary from region to region, climate change impacts all inhabitants of Earth. Scientists predict increasing frequency and intensity of storms and flooding will lead to more diseases and death, by way of water contamination and transmission of vector-borne disease. 

Public Health Laboratories and​​​ Climate Change

Environmental and public health laboratories play a critical role in testing related to climate change: responding to disasters, infectious disease and foodborne outbreaks. CDC explains that as the climate becomes warmer, extreme weather events (such as heat waves, floods, hurricanes and more) occur more frequently and more severely all over the world, and our ability to protect the health of our families and neighbors becomes more difficult. In some parts of the world, droughts and floods damage food and water sources leading to malnutrition or disease. Sometimes droughts force families to relocate, leaving behind their homes and their way of life, causing mental distress. Additionally, with increasing temperatures, the risk of emerging or reemerging infectious diseases (i.e., malaria or dengue fever) increases.

Read "Climate Change in a World with Dire Water Needs" for more information on how climate change will impact laboratory practice, and "Leveraging Public Health Laboratory Science to Understand and Address Climate Change Health Impacts"​ to learn more about how your laboratory's work can make an impact. 

Taking Actio​​n

APHL joined hundreds of organizations in signing the Healthy Climate Prescription letter​ to world leaders urging action on climate change.