Your Personal Health and Climate Change

Well, it’s been more than a minute since I blogged. I took a hiatus because I was enrolled in a class for the first time in a long time and I had to cut back on a few things in order to make sure I had the time I knew I would need to be successful.  The course I decided to take was EPI 810 Introduction to Epidemiology at Michigan State University taught by the world-renowned physician and epidemiologist Dr. Nigel Paneth.  His curriculum vitae is intimidating. Luckily, he was generous and patient.  It was awesome and I am so glad that I did it.  It has affirmed the next direction for me personally and professionally.

Anyone who has read my blog over the last four years has an interest in health. Many of the followers are professionals working in a health related field.  Another portion of the followers of this blog are people who are just interested in health and well-being.  Regardless of who you are or where you are following, I have bad news.  Your health is being negatively impacted by climate change, whether you realize it or not.

Before I go too far, I also need to make it painfully clear that climate change is a scientific fact.  There are corporations that have been sowing seeds of doubt just like the tobacco industry did years ago.  We all know how that wound up.  If you haven’t made this connection yet, just read or watch Merchants of Doubt.

Anyway, it would take me too long to begin to describe the number of ways in which your health is being stressed by our changing climate.  It has become the most pressing public health concern on the planet. I don’t mean that figuratively.  It’s dire.

We can all try to make healthy choices to improve our own personal quality of life.  Unfortunately, those choices are now being influenced in such a way that is downright scary.  If you’re not sold on the idea that this is a problem for you daily, think about a few things here:

  • Do the healthy fruits and vegetables that you eat daily rely on good, healthy soil? How about enough rain water?  Droughts are becoming a regular thing.
  • Do you enjoy exercising outside with fresh, clean air that is free of excessive pollen and chemicals? Increased allergies, respiratory illness and wild fires are very common.
  • Is clean water that has not been infected by flood contamination important after your workout? I get thirsty after exercising.
  • How about working out with air temperatures that are so extreme they make you feel ill?  Children, elderly, and those with chronic disease suffer most.
  • Are clean rivers, lakes, and streams some of your favorite places to pursue recreational activities and enjoy spending free time? Me too.  Lake Michigan is one of my favorite places on the planet.
  • When you are outside, have you ever experienced getting bitten by a bug that will give you a life threatening illness? It seems like we hear about “rare” diseases like Lyme Disease, West Nile, and Zika a whole lot more than ever before.

These topics are just scratching the surface of ways in which a changing climate impacts our pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.  The Climate Reality Project has done an excellent job connecting the dots between the enormous issue of climate change and our personal health.

 

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I urge all of you, personally and professionally to get involved in addressing this issue. I plan to have some forthcoming blogs about ways in which you can do that. In the meantime, for any of you who live in Michigan, please join me in supporting the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and their work in protecting our natural resources and mitigating climate impacts.  I have recently joined their board and you may be hearing from me.

More globally, The Climate Reality Project is also an amazing resource working to catalyze a global solution.  I will close with a quote they use from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy:

“This isn’t just about glaciers and polar bears. It’s about the health of our family and our kids. To protect ourselves and future generations, we need to understand the health impacts of climate change that are already happening, and those that we expect to see down the road.”

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