Climate Change as a Public Health Issue

Jeff Bethel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Many within the public health community are discussing climate change. We see this in communications shared by the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control, American Public Health Association, and as recently expressed by Time Magazine in an article Rebranding Climate Change as a Public Health Issue.

Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division sponsored a well-attended talk this week on How does climate change impact public health? Speakers Kathie Dello from the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, and Jeff Bethel, Ph.D., from Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences shared findings and data. Access this talk as a recorded webinar here.

While there are knowledge and research gaps, they reported that environmental scientists and the public health community should prepare for significant impacts in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Increases in summer temperatures and in extreme weather events will not only impact the public, these changes will also significantly affect outdoor workers, firefighters, and emergency responders. Increases in biological allergens, air pollution and infectious diseases will pose particular concerns to vulnerable populations, but they will certainly impact all those who work in public health and healthcare.

While this remains a significant environmental issue, with wide impacts to various species of plants and animals – perhaps to some, the specific talking points about people make the threats feel closer to home. And it builds individual commitment to take steps to reduce the consequences.

Learn more about the Climate Change and Public Health Program at Oregon’s Public Health Division.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Climate and Health Program
Environmental Protection Agency – Climate Change and Human Health
Oregon Environmental Council – Climate Protection


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About the Author

Dede supports the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and the Oregon Healthy WorkForce Center's research, engagement and education programs. She is a certified industrial hygienist.

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