I was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve on the Horizon Foundation Board. It is a health philanthropy that evaluates the main health concerns facing our county and helps drive better health outcomes based on the best data available and the latest research. It was a humbling and very informative process that opened my eyes to the complexity and challenges of trying to improve our general health and to prepare for health emergencies such as pandemics and even the impacts of a changing climate as best as we can.
Working with Horizon was also pivotal in my understanding of social justice. The data strongly show that people of lower economical means suffer the most and do not have equal access to quality health services. I’ve learned through my research that this is equally true when it comes to the health impacts of a changing climate. People with less means often live in the more threatened parts of our community… along areas that might flood, downstream from waste disposal areas and fossil fuel power plants, and in densely populated areas that may suffer the most from the infestation, breeding, and spread of insects, diseases, and viruses. They often don’t have the means to control, move, or escape these conditions.
If you have further interest in learning more about the potential health challenges of our changing climate, I recommend that you read the Lancet Commission Report on Health and Climate Change. It has two main conclusions that I found invaluable and would like to share with you:
Anthropogenic climate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health. I find this quite sobering realizing the major advances we have made as a society during my lifetime. It is hard to picture the magnitude of the impacts that would send us back 50 years. I find the following corollary to this conclusion promising and a clear call to action that we all should be able to follow.
A comprehensive response to climate change could be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.
I hope we can all take the time to consider these conclusions in light of the pandemic and redouble our efforts to work together to make a future where fewer people suffer because of our actions and not one where more people suffer because of our lack of action.