Arch Hellen Med, 38(3), May-June 2021, 401-409
Climate change as a social determinant of the quality of public health
F. Tzavella,1 I. Vgenopoulou,2 E.C. Fradelos3
In recent years, it has become recognized worldwide that the threats and consequences of climate change for public health and, thus, for the quality of human life, are very serious. The need to protect the planet from climate change is high on the international agenda of social problems. Climate change is currently the most serious environmental hazard, with negative effects on the entire ecosystem. The British Meteorological Office defines climate change as a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet's weather patterns and average temperatures. Climate change can impact the essentials for human survival and health, such as air quality, water quality, and housing, and is often responsible for food insecurity and civil war. The incidence of communicable diseases and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including mental illness, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer and diabetes mellitus, are on the rise. Ángel Guría, the Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) underlined "the need for swift global action on climate change", adding that "climate change is a public health issue that is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, as well as those least responsible for climate change anthropogenic warming". According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change is expected to cause around 250,000 additional deaths annually between 2030 and 2050; 38,000 of these will be due to exposure of the elderly to extremely high temperatures, 48,000 will be caused by diarrhea and 60,000 by malaria, while 95,000 children will die of malnutrition. Unfortunately, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which came into force on November 4, 2016, has hardly been activated. Conversely, in November 2019, US President Donald Trump announced that the US will denounce and withdraw completely from the Paris Agreement in November 2020.
Key words: Climate change, Public health, Quality of life, Social determinants.