Climate Change and Human Health

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 05 Feb 2010 16:00:00 GMT

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While weather extremes, melting glaciers, and crop failures dominate the public discourse on global warming, human health risks from climate change are of growing concern to both the public and health professionals. This briefing will provide an overview of these health risks and health system responses.

  • Rita Colwell, Ph.D. Distinguished University Professor both at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Senior Advisor and Chairman Emeritus, Canon US Life Sciences, Inc., and President and CEO of CosmosID, Inc.
  • Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H. Special Assistant to the Director for Climate Change and Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH. Professor & Director of Global Environmental Health at the University of Wisconsin in Madison
  • Paul Higgins, Ph.D. Senior Policy Fellow, American Meteorological Society

First, Dr. Rita Colwell (University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health) will review major health threats, including heat waves, weather and hydrologic extremes, reduced air quality, rising allergen exposures, infectious diseases, reduced agricultural output, mental health consequences, and civil disruption such as population displacement. She will draw particularly on her research on infectious diseases, including both vector-borne diseases (e.g. malaria, plague, and many viral diseases) and water-borne diseases (e.g. cholera), explaining recent scientific advances in understanding the links between environmental change and disease risk.

Second, Dr. Howard Frumkin (CDC) will discuss the public health response to these threats, drawing on a framework developed at CDC and now being implemented at the Federal, state, and local levels. This response involves longstanding core public health activities, such as disease surveillance, outbreak investigations, vulnerability assessments, health communication, and preparedness planning. He will also emphasize the importance of assessing the health consequences of mitigation strategies, so decision-makers can choose the most health-protective approaches.

Finally, Dr, Jonathan Patz (University of Wisconsin) will introduce the concept of co-benefits, a key strategy in both addressing climate change and promoting health. For example, transportation strategies that reduce travel demand and favor walking, bicycling, and transit over automobiles, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote physical activity as well as improve air quality. The net result is a steep drop in cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma and other ailments. Dr. Patz will cite recent analyses in the US suggesting that climate change mitigation could offer a substantial opportunity to improve the health of the public and save billions of dollars in healthcare costs and worker productivity.


Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, is a Professor & Director of Global Environmental Health at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He Co-chaired the health expert panel of the US National Assessment on Climate Change and was a Convening Lead Author for the United Nations/World Bank Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. For the past 15 years, Dr. Patz has been a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC) – the organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

He is President of the International Association for Ecology and Health and co-editor of the association’s journal EcoHealth. He has written over 90 peer-reviewed papers and a textbook addressing the health effects of global environmental change. He has been invited to brief both houses of Congress, served on several scientific committees of the National Academy of Sciences, and currently serves on science advisory boards for both CDC and EPA. In addition to his sharing in the 2007 Nobel Prize, Dr. Patz received an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellows Award in 2005, shared the Zayed International Prize for the Environment in 2006, and earned the distinction of becoming a UW-Madison Romnes Faculty Fellow in 2009.

He has earned medical board certification in both Occupational/Environmental Medicine and Family Medicine and received his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University (1987) and his Master of Public Health degree (1992) from Johns Hopkins University.

Howard Frumkin is Special Assistant to the Director for Climate Change and Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC’s Climate Change program ( works to identify and understand the adverse health impacts of climate change, ranging from heat waves to infectious diseases, and to prevent or control these impacts.

Dr. Frumkin is an internist, environmental and occupational medicine specialist, and epidemiologist. From 2005 to 2010 he directed the National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR) at the CDC. During his tenure NCEH/ATSDR created its Climate Change program; launched training programs for college students, doctoral students, and post-docs; expanded its Built Environment, Biomonitoring, and Environmental Health Tracking programs; and launched its National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures. Previously, he was Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Emory Medical School.

Dr. Frumkin previously served on the Board of Directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), where he co-chaired the Environment Committee; as president of the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC); as chair of the Science Board of the American Public Health Association (APHA), and on the National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors. As a member of EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, he chaired the Smart Growth and Climate Change work groups. He currently serves on the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine. In Georgia, he was a member of the state’s Hazardous Waste Management Authority, the Department of Agriculture Pesticide Advisory Committee, and the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division Partnership Program Advisory Committee, and is a graduate of the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership. In Georgia’s Clean Air Campaign, he served on the Board and chaired the Health/Technical Committee. He was named Environmental Professional of the Year by the Georgia Environmental Council in 2004. His research interests include public health aspects of the built environment; air pollution; metal and PCB toxicity; climate change; health benefits of contact with nature; and environmental and occupational health policy, especially regarding minority communities and developing nations. He is the author or co-author of over 180 scientific journal articles and chapters, and his books include Urban Sprawl and Public Health (Island Press, 2004, co-authored with Larry Frank and Dick Jackson; named a Top Ten Book of 2005 by Planetizen, the Planning and Development Network), Emerging Illness and Society (Johns Hopkins Press, 2004, co-edited with Randall Packard, Peter Brown, and Ruth Berkelman), Environmental Health: From Global to Local (Jossey-Bass, 2005 and 2010; winner of the Association of American Publishers 2005 Award for Excellence in Professional and Scholarly Publishing in Allied/Health Sciences), Safe and Healthy School Environments (Oxford University Press, 2006, co-edited with Leslie Rubin and Robert Geller), and Green Healthcare Institutions: Health, Environment, Economics (National Academies Press, 2007, co-edited with Christine Coussens).

Dr. Frumkin received his A.B. from Brown University, his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, his M.P.H. and Dr.P.H. from Harvard, his Internal Medicine training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Cambridge Hospital, and his Occupational Medicine training at Harvard. He is Board-certified in Internal Medicine and Occupational Medicine, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Collegium Ramazzini and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Rita Colwell is Distinguished University Professor both at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Senior Advisor and Chairman Emeritus, Canon US Life Sciences, Inc., and President and CEO of CosmosID, Inc. Her interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water, and health, and she is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world.

Dr. Colwell served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation, 1998-2004. In her capacity as NSF Director, she served as Co-chair of the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council. One of her major interests include K-12 science and mathematics education, graduate science and engineering education and the increased participation of women and minorities in science and engineering.

Dr. Colwell has held many advisory positions in the U.S. Government, nonprofit science policy organizations, and private foundations, as well as in the international scientific research community. She is a nationally-respected scientist and educator, and has authored or co-authored 17 books and more than 750 scientific publications. She produced the award-winning film, Invisible Seas, and has served on editorial boards of numerous scientific journals.

Before going to NSF, Dr. Colwell was President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and Professor of Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University Maryland. She was also a member of the National Science Board from 1984 to 1990.

Dr. Colwell has previously served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology and also as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Washington Academy of Sciences, the American Society for Microbiology, the Sigma Xi National Science Honorary Society, and the International Union of Microbiological Societies. Dr. Colwell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, the Royal Society of Canada, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. She is Immediate Past-President of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

Dr. Colwell has also been awarded 54 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education, including her Alma Mater, Purdue University and is the recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, bestowed by the Emperor of Japan, and the 2006 National Medal of Science awarded by the President of the United States. Dr. Colwell is an honorary member of the microbiological societies of the UK, Australia, France, Israel, Bangladesh, and the U.S. and has held several honorary professorships, including the University of Queensland, Australia. A geological site in Antarctica, Colwell Massif, has been named in recognition of her work in the polar regions.

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, Dr. Colwell holds a B.S. in Bacteriology and an M.S. in Genetics, from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Washington.

Clean Energy Economy Forum: Public Health

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 20 Nov 2009 15:00:00 GMT

On Friday, November 20, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will host a Clean Energy Economy Forum focused on the public health benefits of a clean energy economy with business, medical, public health, policy, environmental, and community leaders from around the country.

HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy, other Administration officials, and featured speakers at the forum will also discuss the ways in which transitioning to a clean energy economy will yield immediate and lasting public health benefits. Advances and use of clean energy will help to reduce soot, smog, and toxic pollution, which are major causes of health problems including asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death.

In addition to addressing the public health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving toward clean energy, speakers will focus on the need for comprehensive energy and climate legislation, that will put America back in control of its energy future and strengthen the nation’s economy, environment, and national security by breaking its dependence on oil.

Federal officials will exchange perspectives with public health experts and community leaders who have worked to limit negative health impacts of energy sources and improve the built environment, community resilience and health through clean energy choices.

Public Health, Climate Change, and Federal Transportation Policy

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 14 Jan 2009 18:30:00 GMT

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing to examine the public health impacts and costs associated with transportation in the United States. The briefing will address how federal transportation infrastructure policies can improve public health and mitigate climate change at the same time. Panelists will include:

  • Lawrence Frank, PhD, Professor, Sustainable Transportation Program, University of British Columbia
  • Patrick Kinney, ScD, Associate Professor, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
  • Thomas Gotschi, PhD, Director of Research, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
  • Jenelle Krishnamoorthy, PhD, Professional Staff, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
  • Susan Abramson, MHS, Director, Public Health Policy Center, American Public Health Association

The transportation sector is associated with multiple public health risk factors – adding billions of dollars to our national healthcare bill – while accounting for approximately 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This briefing will explore an emerging body of research documenting local, regional and national health impacts from transportation and implications for addressing transportation-related impacts on climate change.

Exposure to air pollution from vehicles has been linked to premature deaths, cancer, asthma, and other lung ailments. Time spent driving and limited options to walk or bike have been shown to be significant risk factors for health problems associated with physical inactivity, such as stress and obesity, which have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Many of these impacts, asthma and obesity in particular, disproportionately affect children. Recent studies suggest that climate change will exacerbate many of these impacts, however, transportation strategies to address these public health concerns have proven effective measures to help mitigate climate change.

Federal economic stimulus legislation as well as anticipated federal transportation, climate, and energy bills are all important opportunities to address the public health impacts and costs associated with transportation as well as energy security and climate protection goals. Key questions to be addressed include:

  • What are the public health impacts associated with transportation?
  • What are the opportunities to simultaneously address climate change and different public health impacts associated with transportation?
  • What transportation policy options would be most appropriate and effective to address both public health and climate change goals?

This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact Jan Lars Mueller at (202) 662-1883 or

Climate Change: A Challenge for Public Health

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 10 Apr 2008 20:30:00 GMT

  • Jonathan Patz, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Environmental Studies & Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin- Madison
  • Kristie Ebi, Ph.D, M.P.H.., President, ESS LLC
  • John Balbus, M.D, M.P.H.., Chief Scientist and Program Director, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Ambassador John W. McDonald, Chairman and CEO, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy

Healthy Planet, Health People: Global Warming and Public Health

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 09 Apr 2008 14:00:00 GMT

This Wednesday, April 9, Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will take a look at the health of our warming planet, and how climate change affects the health of her citizens. During a week where major public health bodies are calling attention to the links between an unhealthy planet and an unhealthy people, the hearing’s panel of scientists, practicing doctors, and public health professionals will describe the various ways climate change poses a serious public health threat.

Despite the international and national scientific consensus that climate change impacts public health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has refused to state that heat-trapping carbon dioxide is a threat to public health.

The witnesses will also address whether the United States has an unlimited capacity to adapt to this growing public health concern, or whether the only true preventative medicine is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and stop global warming.

According to the World Health Organization, climate change is a significant and emerging threat to public health. The WHO estimates that changes in the Earth’s climate may have caused at least five million cases of illness and more than 150,000 deaths in 2000, and predict these impacts are likely to increase in the future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) determined that climate change contributes to the global burden of disease, premature death and other adverse health impacts due to extreme weather events, changes in infectious disease patterns, air quality, quality and quantity of water and food. Adverse health impacts of climate change also include increases in heat stress, asthma, allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

  • Howard Frumkin, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Center for Disease Control, Director of National Center for Environmental Health, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • Jonathan Patz, M.D., M.P.H., Professor and Director of Global Environmental Health, University of Wisconsin at Madison
  • Georges Benjamin, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.E.P. (Emeritus), Executive Director, American Public Health Association
  • Mark Jacobson, Ph.D., Director, Atmosphere and Energy Program and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University
  • Dana Best, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P., American Academy of Pediatrics

Perspectives on the next phase of the global fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 13 Dec 2007 19:30:00 GMT

White House Censors CDC Climate Health Testimony

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 26 Oct 2007 21:55:00 GMT

In a story reported by Associated Press (see Washington Post, ED, WattHead, CQ), Barbara Boxer revealed that CDC director Julie Gerberding’s written testimony (uncensored version) at Tuesday’s EPW hearing on global warming impacts on health was dramatically cut by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget after questions were raised by John H. Marburger III, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Six of the deleted pages detailed how global warming might affect Americans and they included a section with the title, “Climate Change is a Public Concern.”
On Wednesday, House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Brad Miller sent a letter to Marburger formally requesting all documents related to the matter by next Monday:
We expect our government researchers and scientists to provide to both Congress and the public the full results of their taxpayer-supported work without the filter that those of opposing views might like to impose. Otherwise, we cannot have a full and free scientific debate.
Marburger released a statement today (from Andy Revkin’s NYT Dot Earth blog), claiming:
Those commentators have missed or ignored several nuanced but important differences between the I.P.C.C. report’s findings and the draft testimony.
Barbara Boxer responsed:
Dr. Marburger’s statement is a lame defense of the White House action to censor information the American people deserve to know about the dangers of global warming.
DeSmogBlog shows what was cut from the report, saying:
These were not minor edits the White House PR spin machine would like us to believe. The word-count for the CDC Director’s Senate testimony went from 3,107 to 1,500 after the White House got through with it.

Whole sections on health related effects to extreme weather, air pollution-related health effect, allergic diseases, water and food-borne infectious diseases, food and water scarcity and the long term impacts of chronic diseases and other health effects were completely wiped out of the testimony.

The human health impacts of global warming

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 23 Oct 2007 14:00:00 GMT

Contact Bettina Poirier, Democratic Staff Director at 202-224-8832

  • Julie Louise Gerberding – director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Howard Frumkin – director, National Center for Environmental Health, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • Susan R. Cooper – commissioner, Tennessee Department of Health
  • Michael McCally – executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Don Roberts – professor emeritus, The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Archive Webcast

Update: Geberding’s written testimony was censored by the White House; see this post for more.

Health Consequences of Global Warming

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 14 Sep 2007 18:00:00 GMT

A Conference: Health Consequences of Global Warming: Examining the Links; Breaking the Chains

Friday – Sunday September 14 – 16, 2007

Hotel Veto Conference Center 201 S. Linn St Iowa City, IA

Jointly sponsored by: The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and Physicans for Social Responsibility, in cooperation with the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, Global and Regional Environmental Research, and College of Public Health.

Introducing the Challenge: Halting Climate Change Addressing Health and Human Rights Links

  • Introducing Climate Change Science and Wedges, Jerry Schnoor PhD
  • Introducing Human Rights Issues, Burns Weston LL.B, JSD
  • Introducing Public Health Concerns, Jim Merchant MD PhD
7:00 PM Dinner Speaker:
  • Michael McCally MD PhD, Executive Director, National PSR, Challenge of Global Warming to Preserving Global Health
8:00 PM Concurrent Roundtables
  1. Redefining Security, Catherine Thomasson MD
  2. Introducing Student Groups’ Responses to Global Climate Change
  3. How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. Film, Maureen McCue MD PhD
  4. Faith Based Responses to Goobal Warming, Mark Kresowik & Lynn Heuss
  5. Invoking the Precautionary Principle, Carolyn Raffensperger JD
  6. UNA Process on Global Warming, Katy Hanson, Kate Karchay, Douglas Taylor PhD & Jerry Schnoor PhD

Saturday, September 15

9:00 AM Opening Keynote
  • Michael A. McGeehin PhD MSPH, Climate Change, Myriad Threats to Global Health: From Malaria Movement & Complex Disasters to Failing Food Production

9:45 AM Plenary Panel II

Linked Threats to Health and Environment: Current Energy Sources
  • Health Threats of Auto-Centered Cities, Catherine Thomasson MD
  • Ports, Trade & Transit: Health Threats to Workers, Neighborhoods, and the Global Climate, Andrea Hricko MPH
  • Nuclear Power’s Insurmountable Risks, Arjun Makhijani PhD

11:30 AM Plenary Panel III

Collateral Damage: Overlooked Health Costs of Disasters
  • Disasters–Loss and Mental Health–Challenge, Curt H. Drennen PsyD
  • Disasters–Challenges to Maintaining Research and Care, Tyler Curiel MD MPH
  • Unstable Climate–Challenges to Global Food/Water Security, Douglas Taylor PhD

1:15 PM Luncheon Speaker:

  • Michael Klare PhD, Blood and Oil–Further Dangers and Consequences of Dependency on Petroleum
2:15 PM Concurrent Roundtables
  1. “Low Carbon Diet”– Food Production with Low Carbon Emissions, Rich Pirog
  2. Consumption, Denial, and Fear, Fred Myer MA and Carolyn Raffensperger JD
  3. Iowa’s Uniquely Unhealthy Energy Options (Coal, Bio-fuels, Nuclear), Mark Kresowik BA, Alana Stamas, and Michele Kenyon Brown
  4. Healthy Sustainable Businesses–Incorporating Environmentally Friendly Practices, Peter Barnes MA, Fred Kirschenmann PhD, Geoff Willming, Matt Bulle
  5. Environmental Ethics, Voluntary Initiatives vs. Legal Imperatives to Heal Our Planet, Burns Weston LL.B, JSD and Andy Jameton PhD
  6. War, Global Warming, Public Health, and Opportunity Costs, Victor Sidel MD and William Hartung

3:30 PM Plenary Panel IV

Global Warming, Health and Human Rights Links
  • The Arctic Bellwether–Impact of Energy Extraction, & Use on Health and Human Rights of World’s Indigenous, Marginalized & Poorest, Donald Goldberg JD
  • Healthcare of Poor, Minorities, Marginalized Before, During, After Katrina, Ravi Vadlamudi MD
4:30 PM Plenary Panel V Halting and Reversing Global Warming: Affordable, Attainable, Sustainable Solutions
  • Promoting and Attaining a Healthy, Rights Based Paradigm, Michael Dworkin JD
  • Confronting Coal, Bruce Nilles JD
8:00 PM Concurrent Workshops
  1. Concerned Scientists, Health Care Providers, Arjun Makhijani PhD and Catherine Thomasson MD
  2. Student Groups—Student PSR, AMSA, ESW, Global Pulse Leader
  3. Concerned Business Leaders, Peter Barnes MA, Fred Kirschenmann PhD, Geoff Willming, Matt Bulle
  4. Faith Based/Religious Leaders, Ben & Cathy Webb, others
  5. Law Makers, Rights Based, Andy Jameton RN PhD, Carolyn Raffensperger JD, and Ed Fallon BA
  6. Indigenous Peoples, Minorities, Labor, Mike McCally MD PhD, Ravi Vadlamudi MD MPH, and Dan Holub JD

Sunday, September 16

9:00 AM Opening Inspirational Remarks
  • Imperatives of Tikkun Olam, Gerald Sorokin
  • Cool Congregations–Compelling Commitments, Rev. Ben Webb
9:30 AM Closing Keynote
  • Peter Barnes MA, Introducing the Sky Trust to Protect the Atmosphere

10:15 AM Plenary Panel VI

Good News: Cases of Humane Healthy Living Through Sustainable Energy
  • How the West Coast is coming Clean & Green, Catherine Thomasson MD
  • Cool Cities, Mark Kresowik BA and Frank Cownie (invited),
  • UCS, Assessing the National Legislative Frontier: The Good Bad, and Nonexistent, Rich Dana

11:30 AM Plenary Panel VII

Developing Coalitions, Learning from Others, Working Together Toward a Healthy, Secure, Sustainable Future, Saturday Workshop Leaders Report Results & Consult Audience Members