University of Wisconsin–Madison

GHI Director Jonathan Patz explains why climate change is the most important public health challenge

GHI Director Jonathan Patz explains why climate change is the most important public health challenge

Climate change isn’t just an environmental concern — it’s the most important public health challenge of our time, Global Health Institute Director Jonathan Patz says in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio.

There are many health issues sensitive to climate, anything from heat waves to ground level ozone to mosquito-borne diseases to air pollution, Patz says. Climate change can affect health both directly and indirectly, he adds.

In the U.S. the main threat from climate change depends on the region individuals live in, Patz says. For the Midwest, heat waves are a huge issue, and for coastal areas the concern shifts to the sea level rising and stronger storms.

The southern part of the U.S. is vulnerable to mosquito-borne diseases, which are climate sensitive, Patz says. Diseases from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the United States between 2004 and 2016, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“[It’s important to] be aware that climate change truly is a public health issue and something that affects our own health,” Patz says. “It’s not simply something that affects the polar bears and biodiversity. Too often people overlook the fact that indeed there are so many pathways in which climate can affect our health.”

Listen to the full interview here.