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Climate Change and Health

What is climate change?

Climate change means the long-term shifts in weather patterns and nature, caused by too many greenhouse gases in the air. These changes affect people’s health by making extreme weather, like heatwaves, happen more often, changing how diseases spread, and making it harder to find enough food and clean water. Human activity is the main cause of climate change. It’s important to take action against climate change to protect our health and ensure healthy vibrant communities for our future.

How does climate change impact health?

Climate change can make people sick in different ways. It can cause more heatwaves, which can make us feel very hot and can even lead to heatstroke. Extreme weather, like hurricanes and floods, can be dangerous and cause injuries. Changes in the weather can also affect our lungs and make it harder to breathe, especially for people with asthma or other breathing problems. Climate change can make bugs, such as mosquitoes and ticks, spread diseases more easily. It can also make it harder to grow healthy food, which can affect our nutrition. Taking care of our planet and reducing climate change helps keep us healthy and safe.

Public Health’s Response to Climate Change

Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) has already started to address, manage, and respond to the effects of a changing climate together with our communities. Many of our services and programs that aim to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change include:

  • Raise awareness about the health risks associated with climate change among the public, healthcare professionals, and policy makers.
  • Providing weather alerts and health information about extreme heat, extreme cold, and air quality.
  • Control and prevent diseases influenced by climate change, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus.
  • Collaborate with local governments community organizations, and key partners to advocate for climate change mitigation strategies, such as sustainable transportation, energy efficient buildings, and policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Surveillance and inspections of food and water sources that may be negatively influenced by climate change.

The Northern Ontario Climate Change & Health Collaborative (NOCCC), a committee of multiple northern Ontario health units, has released a report on the links between climate change and human health in northern Ontario. The report, titled Changing Climate and Health in Northern Ontario: An overview of the health impacts of climate change in Northern Ontario, provides information on the health impacts of climate change relevant to the region. It will help northern public health units and others to plan adaptation strategies to deal with climate change. The report explores:

  • What we know about climate change in Northern Ontario,
  • Special factors that may affect the health impacts of climate change in the north,
  • Suggestions about adaptation strategies to deal with those impacts, and
  • Issues such as extreme temperatures, extreme weather events, food and water contamination, and diseases spread to humans from animals and insects.

Changing Climate and Health in Northern Ontario was produced as part of a project funded by Health Canada’s HealthADAPT Program that included all of the northern public health units in Ontario. They will use the report to inform internal climate change policies and share it with partners to support a coordinated approach to addressing the health impacts of climate change across the region.

Click here to access the Changing Climate and Health in Northern Ontario Report.

Next Steps

Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) aims to protect and promote the health of all our communities while ensuring health equity for all. These goals involve addressing specific vulnerabilities and inequities that different populations may experience due to the changing climate. We will work with communities to support action plans to address climate change. Through incorporating climate change considerations into community policies and programs, PHU will effectively mitigate and adapt to the health risks associated with climate change.