Global Environmental Change and Population Health: Progress and Challenges

Abstract

Escalating global environmental change (GEC) over the past century has been driven largely by rapid industrialization, population growth, overconsumption of natural resources, and associated waste disposal challenges, as well as the inappropriate uses of technology. These changes are already having and will increasingly continue to have significant impacts on human health and well-being. How to tackle these issues is an important challenge to scientists, policy-makers, and the general public. Scientific consensus now exists that GEC and population health are linked, even though the details and mechanisms underlying this link remain to be both explicated and quantified. In this article we provide an overview of progress and challenges in the area of GEC and population health since the late 1980s, highlighting some of the main landmarks in this area and recommending directions for future research.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Figure 1.

References

  1. Almendares J, Sierra M, Anderson PK, Epstein PR (1993) Critical regions, a profile of Honduras. Lancet 342(8884):1400–1402

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Anielski M, Soskolne CL (2002) Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) Accounting: Relating Ecological Integrity to Human Health and Well-Being. In: Miller P, Westra L (editors), Just Ecological Integrity: The Ethics of Maintaining Planetary Life, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp 83–97

    Google Scholar 

  3. Aron J, Patz JA (2001) Ecosystem change and public health, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press

    Google Scholar 

  4. Barnett TP, Pierce DW, Achutarao KM, Gleckler PJ, Santer BD, Gregory JM, Washington WM (2005) Penetration of human-induced warming into the world’s oceans. Science 309:284–287

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Beniston M (2002) Climatic change: possible impacts on human health. Swiss Medical Weekly 132(25–26):332–337

    Google Scholar 

  6. Brown V, Grootjans J, Ritchie J, Townsend M, Verrinder G (2005) Sustainability and health: supporting global ecological integrity in public health. Sydney: Earthscan

    Google Scholar 

  7. Campbell-Lendrum D (2005) How much does the health community care about global environmental change? Global Environmental Change 15:296–298

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Climateark. http://www.climateark.org/. Accessed 5 May 2006

  9. Costanza R, d’Arge R, de Groot R, Farber S, Grasso M, Hannon B, Limburg K, Naeem S, O’Neill RO, Paruelo J, Raskin RG, Sutton P, van den Belt M (1997) The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387:253–260

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Daszak P (2005) Emerging infectious diseases and the socio-ecological dimension. EcoHealth 2(4):239–240

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Dobson A, Carper R (1993) Biodiversity. Lancet 342(8879):1096–1099

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Ebi KL, Gamble JL (2005) Summary of a workshop on the development of health models and scenarios: strategies for the future. Environmental Health Perspectives 113(3):335–338

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Ebi KL, Smith JB, Burton I (2005) Integration of public health with adaptation to climate change: lessons learned and new directions, London: Taylor & Francis Group

    Google Scholar 

  14. Epstein PR (2005) Climate change and human health. New England Journal of Medicine 353(14):1433–1436

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Epstein PR, Mills E (editors) (2005) Climate Change Futures: Health, Ecological and Economic Dimensions. Published by the Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School. http://www.chge.med.harvard.edu/research/ccf. Accessed 26 December 2005

  16. Epstein PR, Ford TE, Colwell RR (1993) Marine ecosystems. Lancet 342(8881):1216–1219

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Haines A, Epstein PR, McMichael AJ (1993) Global health watch: monitoring impacts of environmental change. Lancet 342(8885):1464–1469

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Haines A, McMichael AJ, Epstein PR (2000) Environment and health: 2. Global climate change and health. CMAJ 163(6):729–734

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Hay S, Cox J, Rogers D, Randolph SE, Stern DI, Shanks GD, Myers MF, Snow RW (2002) Climate change and the resurgence of malaria in the East African highlands. Nature 415:905–909

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Houghton JT, Ding Y, Griggs DJ, et al. (editors) (2001) Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

    Google Scholar 

  21. IPCC (2007) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Available at http://www.ipcc.ch/. Accessed 10 February 2007

  22. Kalkstein LS (1993) Health and climate change. Direct impacts in cities. Lancet 342(8884):1397–1399

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Koppe C, Kovats S, Jendritzky G, Menne B (2004) Heat-waves: risks and responses. Health and Global Environmental Change, Series No. 2. WHO Regional Office for Europe, Rome

  24. Kovats RS, Haines A (2005) Global climate change and health: recent findings and future steps. CMAJ 172(4):501–502

    Google Scholar 

  25. Last J (1997) Public health and human ecology, Stamford, CT: Appleton and Lange

    Google Scholar 

  26. Leaf A (1989) Potential health effects of global climatic and environmental changes. New England Journal of Medicine 321(23):1577–1583

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Levitus S, Antonov JI, Wang J, Delworth TL, Dixon KW, Broccoli AJ (2001) Anthropogenic warming of Earth’s climate system. Science 292(5515):267–270

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Lloyd SA (1993) Stratospheric ozone depletion. Lancet 342(8880):1156–1158

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Lubchenco J (1998) Entering the century of the environment: a new social contract for science. Science 279:491–497

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Maskell K, Mintzer IM, Callander BA (1993) Basic science of climate change. Lancet 342(8878):1027–1031

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. McMichael A (1993) Planetary Overload: Global Environmental Change and the Health of the Human Species, New York: Cambridge University Press

    Google Scholar 

  32. McMichael A (2001) Human Frontiers, Environments and Disease : Past Patterns, Uncertain Futures, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

    Google Scholar 

  33. McMichael AJ (2006) Population health as a primary criterion of sustainability. EcoHealth 3:182–186

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. McMichael A, Campbell-Lendrum D, Corvalan CF, et al. (2003) Climate change and human health, Geneva: WHO/WMO/UNEP

    Google Scholar 

  35. McMichael AJ, Campbell-Lendrum D, Kovats S, et al. (2004) Global climate change. In: Ezzati M, Lopez A, Rodgers A, Murray C (editors), Comparative Quantification of Health Risks, Geneva: World Health Organisation, pp 1543–1550

    Google Scholar 

  36. Menne B, Ebi K (2006) (editors) Climate change and adaptation strategies for human health, Steinkopff, Germany: Springer-Verlag

  37. Michaels D (2005) Doubt is their product. Scientific American 292(6):96–101

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Available at http://www.MAweb.org. Accessed 8 February 2006

  39. Novacek MJ, Cleland E (2001) The current biodiversity extinction event: scenarios for mitigation and recovery. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of theUnited States of America 98(10):5466–5470

  40. Pascal M, Laaidi K, Ledrans M, Baffert E, Caserio-Schonemann C, Le Tertre A, Manach J, Medina S, Rudant J, Empereur-Bissonnet P (2006) France’s heat health watch warning system. International Journal of Biometeorology 50(3):144–153

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Pascual M, Ahumada JA, Chaves LF, Rodo X, Bouma M (2006) Malaria resurgence in the East African highlands: Temperature trends revisited. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103:5829–5834

    Google Scholar 

  42. Patz J, Hulme M, Rosenzweig C, Mitchell TD, Goldberg RA, Fitheko AK, Lele S, McMichael AJ, Le Sueur D (2002) Regional warming and malaria resurgence. Nature 420:627–628

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  43. Patz JA, Campbell-Lendrum D, Holloway T, Foley JA (2005) Impact of regional climate change on human health. Nature 438(7066):310–317

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  44. Pittock B (2003) Climate change: an Australian guide to the science and potential impacts, Canberra: Australian Greenhouse Office

  45. Pounds JA, Bustamante MR, Coloma LA, Consuegra JA, Fogden MP, Foster PN, La Marca E, Master KL, Merino-Viteri A, Puschendorf R, Ron SR, Sánchez-Azofeifa GA, Still CJ, Young BE (2006) Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature 439(7073):161–167

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  46. Rogers DJ, Packer MJ (1993) Vector-borne diseases, models, and global change. Lancet 342(8882):1282–1284

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  47. Schellnhuber HJ, Cramer W, Nakicenovic N, Wigley T, Yohe G (2006) Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

    Google Scholar 

  48. Sieswerda LE, Soskolne CL, Newman SC, Schopflocher D, Smoyer KE (2001) Toward measuring the impact of ecological disintegrity on human health. Epidemiology 12(1):28–32

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  49. Soskolne CL (2003) Measuring the impact of ecological disintegrity on human health: a role for epidemiology. In: Rapport DJ, Lasley WL, Rolston DE, Nielsen NO, Qualset CO, Damania AB (editors), Managing for Healthy Ecosystems, Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers, pp 259–265

    Google Scholar 

  50. Soskolne CL, Bertollini R (1999) Global Ecological Integrity and ‘Sustainable Development’: Cornerstones of Public Health: A Discussion Document. World Health Organization, European Centre for Environment and Health, Rome Division, Italy

    Google Scholar 

  51. Soskolne CL, Bertollini R (2002) Global ecological integrity, global change and public health. In: Aguirre AA, Ostfeld RS, Tabor GM, House C, Pearl MC (editors), Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice, New York: Oxford University Press, pp 372–382

    Google Scholar 

  52. Soskolne CL, Broemling N (2002) Eco-epidemiology: on the need to measure health effects from global change. Global Change and Human Health 3(1):58–66

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Soskolne CL, Sieswerda LE, Scott HM (2000) Epidemiologic methods for assessing the health impact of diminishing ecological integrity. In: Pimentel D, Westra L, Noss RF (editors), Ecological Integrity: Integrating Environment, Conservation, and Health, Covelo, CA: Island Press, pp 261–277

    Google Scholar 

  54. Stern N (2006) The economics of climate change, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

    Google Scholar 

  55. Sunyer J, Grimalt J (2006) Global climate change, widening health inequalities, and epidemiology. International Journal of Epidemiology 35:213–216

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Swiss Re sigma catastrophe database (2006) Available at http://www.eesi.org. Accessed 2 August 2006

  57. The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Our common future, Oxford: Oxford University Press

    Google Scholar 

  58. Thomson MC, Doblas-Reyes FJ, Mason SJ, et al. (2006) Malaria early warnings based on seasonal climate forecasts from multi-model ensembles. Nature; 439:576–9

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  59. Tong S (2000) The potential impact of global environmental change on population health. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine 30(5):618–625

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  60. Tong S, Olsen J (2005) The threat to scientific integrity in environmental and occupational medicine. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 62:843–846

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  61. Tong S, Nicholls N, Weinstein P (2004) Assessment of the health impacts of global environmental change: Are we equipped to grasp the nettle? Epidemiology 15(4):S103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. UNFCCC (2005) http://www.unfccc.int/meetings/cop_11/items/3394.php. Accessed 26 December 2005

  63. World Health Organization (1992) Our Planet, Our Health: Report of the WHO Commission on Health and Environment, Geneva: World Health Organization

    Google Scholar 

  64. World Health Organization (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-being. Health Synthesis. Available at http://www.who.int/globalchange/ecosystems/ecosystems05/en/print.html. Accessed 10 January 2006

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Prof. Tony McMichael, Dr. Colin Butler, the Editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. Shilu Tong is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Research Fellowship (#290515).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shilu Tong.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tong, S., Soskolne, C.L. Global Environmental Change and Population Health: Progress and Challenges. EcoHealth 4, 352–362 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-007-0125-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • ecosystems
  • global environmental change
  • population health