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Climate Change and Health

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to any significant long term change in current normal climate conditions, such as temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, snow cover and sea level rise. There is a clear scientific consensus that the world's climate is changing, largely as a result of human activities, and that this will bring about changes in weather conditions and other natural systems.

What are the health risks associated with climate change?

Weather and climate can have direct impacts on our health and can cause, for example, hypothermia in cold weather; heat stress on hotter days; and injuries or loss of life from severe weather (e.g. floods). They can also indirectly impact health through, for example, water contamination after intense rainfall, cardio-respiratory problems from smog, and increased risks from food-borne and vector-borne diseases during hot weather.

Direct and indirect health impacts could be worsened with climate change. For example, it is anticipated that many larger Canadian cities would experience a significant rise in the number of smog days and longer heat waves. This could increase heat related illnesses and deaths, especially in those most vulnerable to heat, such as the elderly.

Public Health’s Response to Climate Change

The Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) has already started to address, manage and respond to the effects of a changing climate. The PHU has begun the process of conducting a Climate Change and Health Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment Report with funding support from Health Canada. This assessment looks at what types of changes we should be expecting in our region and what the PHU can do to reduce harmful effects on health.

Next Steps

As we continue with the process of our Climate Change and Health Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment Report, we will use the information to identify important local issues, and ways we can reduce the effects that climate change will have on people’s health. The PHU will work with municipalities to develop approaches to promote healthy built and natural environments to enhance population health and decrease environmental health risks.