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Not What the Doctor Ordered: Rapid Environmental Change Threatens the Foundations of Human Health
Date:11/4/2009

New Report Examines the Health Impacts of Global Environmental Change

Washington, D.C. (Vocus) November 4, 2009 -- Changes to the Earth’s land cover, climate, and ecosystems are endangering the health of hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of people worldwide and now represent the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century. The scale of these global changes is rapidly undermining human life-support systems and threatening the core foundations of healthy communities around the globe: access to adequate food, clean air, safe drinking water, and secure homes.

These are the findings of the new report, Global Environmental Change: The Threat to Human Health, published today by the Worldwatch Institute and the United Nations Foundation. The report notes that, as a result of rapid changes to the climate and in land use, we are already seeing alterations in the distribution of malaria, schistosomiasis, and other infectious diseases in many regions. It concludes that poor populations, mainly in developing countries, are the most vulnerable to these environmental changes, even though they are the least responsible for contributing to them.

“It is increasingly apparent that the breadth and depth of the changes we are wreaking on the environment are imperiling not only many of the other species with which we share the ecological stage, but the health and wellbeing of our own species as well,” writes the report’s author, Dr. Samuel S. Myers, M.D., M.P.H., an instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Research Associate at the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

The report outlines a series of public health threats—food and water scarcity, altered dis
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