Public health preparedness for the impact of global warming on human health


  • John J. Wassel, MD, MHS(c)



global warming, climate change, human health, public health, preparedness


Objective: To assess the changes in weather and weather-associated disturbances related to global warming; the impact on human health of these changes; and the public health preparedness mandated by this impact.
Design: Qualitative review of the literature. Articles will be obtained by searching PubMed database, Google, and Google Scholar search engines using terms such as “global warming,” “climate change,” “human health,” “public health,” and “preparedness.”
Results: Sixty-seven journal articles were reviewed.
Conclusions: The projections and signs of global environmental changes are worrisome, and there are reasons to believe that related information may have been conservatively interpreted and presented in the recent past. Although the challenges are great, there are many opportunities for devising beneficial solutions at individual, community, and global levels. It is essential for public health professionals to become involved in advocating for change at all of these levels, as well as through professional organizations.We must begin “greening” our own lives and clinical practice, and start talking about these issues with patients. As we build walkable neighborhoods, change methods of energy production, and make water use and food production and distribution more sustainable, the benefits to improved air quality, a stabilized climate, social support, and individual and community health will be dramatic.

Author Biography

John J. Wassel, MD, MHS(c)

Novant Health, Concord, North Carolina.


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Staropoli JF: The public health implications of global warming, 2002.Available at Accessed November 10, 2008.

World Health Organization: Climate change and human health, 2008. Available at Accessed November 11, 2008.

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Climate change 2007: Synthesis report.Available at Accessed November 13, 2008.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Climate change—Health and environmental effects, 2008.Available at www. Accessed November 14, 2008.

Epstein PR: Climate change and human health, 2005. Available at Accessed November 22, 2008.

Schwartz BS, Parker C, Glass TA, et al.: Global environmental change: What can health care providers and the environmental health community do about it now? 2006. Available at www. Accessed November 13, 2008.

McMichael AJ,Woodruff RE: Climate change and human health: What do we do? 2002. Available at Accessed November 11, 2008.

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Climate change 2007: Synthesis report. Available at Accessed November 13, 2008.

Fielding JE: Changing climate changing public health, 2008. Available at Accessed November 24, 2008.

Smith KR: Mitigating, adapting, and suffering: How much of each? Available at Accessed November 9, 2008.

The Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School: Climate change futures: Health, ecological and economic dimensions, 2006.Avilable at pdf/CCF_Report_Final_10.27.pdf. Accessed November 14, 2008.

Jackson R, Shields KN: Preparing the U.S. health community for climate change, 2008.Avilable at Accessed November 10, 2008.



How to Cite

Wassel, MD, MHS(c), J. J. “Public Health Preparedness for the Impact of Global Warming on Human Health”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 4, no. 4, July 2009, pp. 217-25, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2009.0033.