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Health Impacts Of Climate Change

April 14, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 15

Anticipating more human health problems from global warming, the World Health Organization and several United Nations partners announced a new research agenda to produce better estimates of the scale and nature of human health vulnerability due to changing climate, as well as to find health-protecting strategies and tools. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, warned that warming may be gradual but the effects—more storms, floods, droughts, and heat waves—will be abrupt and acutely felt. She predicted that global warming will influence some of the most fundamental determinants of health: air, water, food, shelter, and freedom from disease. The impact will be global, she said, but the consequences will not be evenly distributed. "In short, climate change will affect problems that are already huge, largely concentrated in the developing world, and will be difficult to control," Chan said. She announced a new climate-change program to be run by WHO along with the UN Environmental Programme, the Food & Agricultural Organization, and the UN World Meteorological Organization. The program will provide better surveillance and forecasting, stronger basic health services, and more effective means to help people adapt to a changing climate and to limit climate change's effect on health.


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