Adaptation: Field of Action Human Health

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Human health can be affected by climate change.
Source: Miss X/

Temperature changes that occur as a result of climate change can have a strong impact on the health of the population. The increasing number of hot days, new pathogens and extreme weather events, such as storms or floods, constitute challenges. These shall be met primarily with the help of education measures, early warning systems and medical research.

Technical measures

In the context of health issues, technical measures for climate change adaptation primarily concern medical research. When monitoring diseases that are influenced by climate change , the observation of pathogens, which had previously not been native in Germany, but could settle here in the future due to rising temperatures, is of particular importance. For this purpose, already existing monitoring networks, such as those of the Robert Koch Institute, should be used and expanded.

In addition to medical measures such as vaccinations, technical protection measures can also reduce the negative impacts of climate change on human health. Thermal insulation or blinds, for example, avoid heat stress. Especially community facilities where risk groups reside, such as hospitals or nursing homes should be protected by technical devices.

Ecosystem measures

In order to realise ecosystem measures for health adaptation to climate change, health care must be linked to construction planning: especially in the context of urban planning, green areas with a sufficient number of trees, courtyard gardens or green roofs as well as fresh air corridors are of major health relevance. They reduce the heating up of cities and thus protect the population from excessive heat. Urban planners and local authorities should therefore counteract the sealing of settlement and traffic areas as far as possible.

Legal, political and management measures
Educational measures explaining the impacts of climate change and the resulting health risks are essential for the protection of the population. This is the only way to ensure that citizens can assess health hazards and take corresponding precautions. The German Weather Service (DWD), the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) as well as the competent authorities of the federal states provide interested citizens with information on, for example, behaviour during heat waves.

Also the medical specialists and nursing staff should be trained specifically to promote as multipliers the exchange of information and a greater awareness of the population.

Special early warning systems with locally adapted countermeasures are currently already introduced in some cities. They transmit time- and location-specific warnings. In the aftermath of the heat wave of 2003, the DWD, for example, developed a heat warning system. Its aim is to inform about increased heat loads at an early stage to ensure that public health facilities can take appropriate preventive measures. In addition to health authorities of the federal states, also nursing homes should benefit from the warning systems. Citizens can also receive information and weather alerts from the DWD directly on their mobile phones.

Furthermore, also the preventive medical care and the healthcare need to be adjusted in order to ensure that health problems caused by climate change are covered by public health programmes and that disease carriers are contained in the long term (climate-proof health care). In this respect, appropriate vaccinations are possible measures.

If you are interested in obtaining information about concrete impacts of climate change in the field of action human health, please click here.