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The Impact of Global Climate Change on Health

Climate change poses considerable public health risks in developed and underdeveloped countries. It affects human welfare by intensifying existing environmental stressors and introducing new threats to global health (CDC, 2020). The changing climate results in periods of temperature extremes worldwide, which cause disruptions in the infrastructure sector, agriculture, and ecosystems (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2016). Extreme heat and cold exacerbate current health concerns and endanger vulnerable populations. The following paper will investigate two health concerns associated with climate change in the U.S., Australia, and Vietnam, and offer relevant health promotion/protection strategies for nurses.

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Public health in the U.S. may be negatively influenced by temperature extremes. The main health concerns are heat-induced cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, such as bronchiectasis and asthma. Several major U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chicago, have experienced frequent heatwaves over the past decade (CDC, 2020). The climate projections by the CDC (2020) indicate that the intensity and frequency of heatwaves will further rise in the following years. The health concerns are critical and should be addressed by American healthcare professionals and policymakers because the mortality rates and hospital admissions rise dramatically during heatwaves.

If the problems of heat-induced cardiovascular and respiratory disorders are left unchecked, they might become the primary causes of preventable death in the U.S. However, the government is currently working on addressing the health concerns by educating Americans on protection from extreme heat, prevention of complications, and signs of heat-related illnesses. Moreover, the authorities are planning to reduce air-conditioning consumption and high ambient air temperatures in urban areas by increasing tree canopy covers (McDonald et al., 2020). Additionally, the CDC, in collaboration with the Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative, proposed a plan for adaptation and response during extreme heat events. The project includes the construction of cooling and water centers, improvement of emergency response procedures for cardiovascular/respiratory risk patients, and distribution of public health alert messages. Therefore, the U.S. is taking several important steps to combat the negative influence of the changing climate on public health.

Australia is another developed country that is exposed to the devastating effects of extreme heat on public health. Heatwaves are represented by hot and dry or humid periods damaging human health and ecosystems (Williams et al., 2018). The environmental hazard triggers a variety of adverse health outcomes, as it causes acute diseases and worsens chronic conditions. Similar to the climate-related concerns in the U.S., the Australian healthcare system struggles with mortality in infants and older populations due to respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Heatwaves in Australia are especially dangerous for outdoor workers, homeless people, and tourists with poor acclimatization. The government addressed public health concerns via the implementation of heat-health warning systems (HHWS), informing people about upcoming temperature extremes and providing guidance on heat protection (Williams et al., 2018). Healthcare workers in multiple locations in Australia educate patients on preventive measures, such as adequate hydration, air-conditioning, and avoidance of direct sunlight exposure. Thus, the country is successfully working on protecting its citizens and public healthcare systems during hot weather events.

Vietnam is s developing country in South-East Asia affected by heat waves. Phung et al. (2016) claim that there is a link between socioeconomic factors and mortality/morbidities associated with hot weather. The main health concerns during heatwaves are infections and cardiovascular problems similar to the U.S. and Australia. Remarkably, the residents of the Northern regions demonstrate a higher risk of hospital admissions compared to people living in the South of Vietnam, which might be explained by a poor adaptive capacity to extreme temperatures. The local government does not address the issue despite the fact that climate change significantly increases mortality from infectious, cardiovascular, and respiratory complications. Furthermore, socioeconomic factors, such as the low-income population, inadequate access to quality healthcare, and the lack of clinical preventive services, exacerbate the vulnerability of the Vietnamese. If the government ignores heat-induced health concerns, the mortality rates among older adults will rise dramatically, while morbidity will place a burden on the healthcare system with additional expenses for medication, hospitalizations, and readmissions.

Public health nurses (PHNs) are responsible for supporting the well-being of local populations and promoting health globally. Stanhope and Lancaster (2016) suggest that mitigation and response are the primary roles of nurses, who can implement health promotion or protection strategies via individual, local, institutional, or governmental mechanisms. Firstly, PHNs should educate their patients, especially the young and elderly, on the importance of staying home and protecting themselves from heat during extreme temperature events. Secondly, the nurse might advocate for energy-saving practices in his/her facility and community via the efficient allocation of resources and minimization of their excessive consumption. The rational use of transportation, electricity and natural resources can help to manage climate change and avert the worsening of health concerns. Finally, PHNs should propose relevant strategies to tackle the problem of climate-related emergencies. The plans developed by nurses might employ health information and statistics obtained during previous events to improve the emergency response and offer appropriate treatment to vulnerable patient populations.

References

CDC. (2020). Climate and health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web.

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McDonald, R., Kroeger, T., Zhang, P., & Hammel, P. (2020). The value of US urban tree cover for reducing heat-related health impacts and electricity consumption. Ecosystems, 23, 137–150. Web.

Phung, D., Chu, C., Rutherford, S., Nguyen, H. L. T., Do, C. M., & Huang, C. (2016). Heatwave and risk of hospitalization: A multi-province study in Vietnam. Environmental Pollution, 220, 597–607. Web.

Stanhope, M., & Lancaster, J. (2016). Public health nursing: Population-centered health care in the community (9th ed.). Elsevier.

Williams, S., Hanson-Easey, S., Nitschke, M., Howell, S., Nairn, J., Beattie, C., Wynwood, G., & Bi, P. (2018). Heat-health warnings in regional Australia: examining public perceptions and responses. Environmental Hazards, 18(4), 287–310. Web.

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