New Bill Addresses Public Health Impacts of Climate Change, Prevents Future Pandemics

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

On Monday, lawmakers introduced the Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act to help improve the nation’s response to health threats presented by climate change. Experts have reported that as climate change worsens and temperatures rise, viruses and pandemics like COVID-19 will become more common. To help fight future pandemics, this act would support research, health impact monitoring, and preparation in the health sector and direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a National Strategic Action Plan to fight climate change health threats.

Why This Matters: Rising deforestation and accelerating biodiversity loss are driving humans and animals closer together than ever before. This increased proximity increases the chance of zoonotic spillover when disease jumps from animals to humans. A newly emerging disease is discovered about five times each year. Climate disasters like wildfires and heatwaves also threaten public health and air quality, primarily in marginalized communities. Despite new and promising strategies to fight deforestation, biodiversity loss, and temperature rise, the world must adapt to the ongoing health impacts of climate change. This bill could help fortify President Biden’s climate adaptation strategy. 

An Apple a Day

Representative Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sponsored the legislation, saying that the United States cannot afford to forego a solid response to the health risks presented by climate change. “The pandemic has illuminated the threat of new infectious diseases at a terrible cost, storms are stronger and more frequent, and extreme weather and air pollution continue to cost us lives and livelihoods,” said Markey. “The toll has been highest in the Black and Brown communities, and we need to address these inequities and prepare our health system for the continued and escalating effects of the climate crisis.” To accomplish this, the bill aims to:

  • Provide technical support to state and local health departments to develop preparedness plans and conduct community outreach.
  • Enhance forecasting and modeling, track environmental and disease data, and expand research capacity on the relationship between climate change and health.
  • Prioritize communities that have been disproportionately impacted by climate change.
  • Enhance domestic and international tracking capacity for infectious diseases and environmental health indicators.
  • Develop a coordinated research and preparedness agenda on climate and health.
  • Require health impact assessments to evaluate current and proposed laws, policies, and programs.

In keeping with President Biden’s climate agenda and campaign promises, the bill highlights the importance of environmental justice in protecting public health. “Every American deserves to breathe clean air, drink clean water and live in a community that prioritizes their health and well-being,” said co-sponsor of the bill, Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA).

Dozens of environmental and public health organizations have endorsed the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Georges C. Benjamin, MD, the Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, said, “this important legislation acknowledges the critical role that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and all its component agencies must play in helping to address these threats.”

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