finding 9.3 : early-public-health-actions-beneficial

Public health actions, especially preparedness and prevention, can do much to protect people from some of the impacts of climate change. Early action provides the largest health benefits. As threats increase, our ability to adapt to future changes may be limited.



This finding is from chapter 9 of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: The key messages were developed during technical discussions and expert deliberation at a two-day meeting of the eight chapter Lead Authors, plus Susan Hassol and Daniel Glick, held in Boulder, Colorado May 8-9, 2012; through multiple technical discussions via six teleconferences from January through June 2012, and an author team call to finalize the Traceable Account draft language on Oct 12, 2012; and through other various communications on points of detail and issues of expert judgment in the interim. The author team also engaged in targeted consultations during multiple exchanges with Contributing Authors, who provided additional expertise on subsets of the key message. These discussions were held after a review of the technical inputs and associated literature pertaining to human health, including a literature review,5836b5e1-c6fa-4eaa-b453-93304c3021d5 workshop reports for the Northwest and Southeast United States, and additional technical inputs on a variety of topics.

Description of evidence base: The key message and supporting text summarizes extensive evidence documented in several foundational technical inputs prepared for this chapter, including a literature review5836b5e1-c6fa-4eaa-b453-93304c3021d5 and workshop reports for the Northwest and Southeast United States. Nearly 60 additional technical inputs related to human health were received and reviewed as part of the Federal Register Notice solicitation for public input. A number of studies have demonstrated that prevention activities that reduce carbon pollution, like using alternative energy sources09c990e5-09cd-458b-961e-67038aa59fa4 and using active transportation like biking or walking,4feed3ba-a773-445b-a97d-383477321352 can lead to significant public health benefits, which can save costs in the near and long term.25181456-7f49-4348-8ce8-55e4def0e02b Health impacts associated with climate change can be prevented through early action at significantly lower cost than dealing with them after they occur. For example, heat wave early warning systems are much less expensive than treating heat-related illnesses.6a6219a6-397f-4ed7-8b22-34c5d7030aa8 Existing adaptation programs have improved public health resilience.9df9d372-1c41-4065-890e-9784acbd6005 3f2402c5-22aa-4f75-861e-f6aca127cd1f One survey highlighted opportunities to address climate change preparedness activities and climate-health research2cbfda05-ea36-4333-b858-8297784b1fab before needs become more widespread. Considering U.S. public health in general, the cost-effectiveness of many prevention activities is well established.04621bc1-b3fc-401b-93f8-4479c9236d2a Some preventive actions are cost-saving, while others are deemed cost-effective based on a pre-determined threshold. Early preventive interventions, such as early warnings for extreme weather, can be particularly cost-effective.44c6f36b-a252-4e0f-8feb-ebed3d289e64 However, there is less information on the cost-effectiveness of specific prevention interventions relevant to climate sensitive health threats (for example, heat early warning systems). Overall, we have high confidence that public health actions can do much to protect people from some of the impacts of climate change, and that early action provides the largest health benefits. The inverse relationship between the magnitude of an impact and a community’s ability to adapt is well established and understood. Two extreme events, Hurricane Katrina and the European heat wave of 2003, illustrate this relationship well.59ce3a50-c6f0-43b0-a483-d93b1d03a0ce 6859f3cb-705f-43b3-845f-5ece6e680a68 Extreme events interact with social vulnerability to produce extreme impacts, and the increasing frequency of extreme events associated with climate change is prompting concern for impacts that may overwhelm adaptive capacity.089d8050-f4c8-4d07-bc35-25bf61691be3 e823919d-ae59-4365-adb6-499d5032a402 This is equally true of the public health sector, specifically, leading to very high confidence that as threats increase, our ability to adapt to future changes may be limited.

New information and remaining uncertainties: A key issue (uncertainty) is the extent to which the nation, states, communities and individuals will be able to adapt to climate change because this depends on the levels of local exposure to climate-health threats, underlying susceptibilities, and the capacities to adapt that are available at each scale. Overall, the capacity of the American public health and health care delivery systems faces many challenges.0219f3f2-9fe2-4b30-8b5e-555cd1dd827b The cost of dealing with current health problems is diverting resources from preventing them in the first place. This makes the U.S. population more vulnerable.d7337bde-d182-4ad9-bd11-b1b00c431ea7 04621bc1-b3fc-401b-93f8-4479c9236d2a Steps for improving the information base on adaptation include undertaking a more comprehensive evaluation of existing climate-health preparedness programs and their effectiveness in various jurisdictions (cities, counties, states, nationally).

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Overall, given the evidence base and remaining uncertainties: High. High: Public health actions, especially preparedness and prevention, can do much to protect people from some of the impacts of climate change. Prevention provides the most protection; but we do not as yet have a lot of post-implementation information with which to evaluate preparedness plans. High: Early action provides the largest health benefits. There is evidence that heat-health early warning systems have saved lives and money in U.S. cities like Philadelphia, PA.6a6219a6-397f-4ed7-8b22-34c5d7030aa8 Very High: Our ability to adapt to future changes may be limited.

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