National Institutes of Health Explore Impact of Climate Change on Human Health Print E-mail
National Institutes of Health Research Portfolio

Monday, April 22, 2013

Featured by NIEHS a member of the U.S. Global Change Research Program

What are the potential effects of global climate change on human health? This is a question that a growing number of federally funded studies seek to answer. A new analysis recently published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, looks at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) research portfolio on climate change and human health.

Climate change is affecting human health through environmental consequences, such as sea-level rise, changes in precipitation, heat waves, changes in intensity of hurricanes and storms, and degraded air quality, according to the World Health Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

More specifically, climate change is expected to intensify heat stress and heat mortality. It could worsen infectious diseases, like malaria and cholera; it could also aggravate chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Other secondary human health impacts may include population migration or human conflict arising from food or water scarcity brought on or exacerbated by climate change.

To better understand how well the NIH is studying these impacts and addressing knowledge gaps, a team of NIH scientists and grant managers analyzed the 2008 NIH research portfolio. Their goal: To enumerate the studies seeking to investigate the complex relationships among ecosystems, and climate change and domestic and global health.

The analysis identified seven projects specifically focused on climate change, 85 projects related to climate more generally, and 706 projects that focused on disease areas associated with climate change. Of the nearly 53,000 awards that NIH made in 2008, approximately 0.17% were related to climate. NIH had a $30.9 billion fiscal year budget in 2011; approximately 80% of these funds went to supporting research, including the impact of climate change on human health.

The authors of the portfolio analysis write, “As climate change is increasingly recognized as a global problem, better understanding of its potential impacts on human health gains urgency. Improved scientific understanding of the relationship between climate change and health can contribute to developing interventions to reduce vulnerability to climate change and ensuring that mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions address health impacts.”

Lead authors include:

Christine Jessup, Ph.D., and Joshua Rosenthal, Ph.D. at NIH’s Fogarty International Center
John Balbus, M.D., M.P.H., at National Institute Environmental Health Sciences

  • To view and download a fact sheet about the health consequences of climate change and vital research needs, please click here.

The article above was written by Tara Failey who is currently an MPH student in Environmental Health Science and Policy at The George Washington University.