Climate impact: How the business of healthcare is changing with climate change

The World Health Organization calls climate change "the greatest health challenge of the 21st century," and a dozen U.S. medical societies urge action to limit global warming. (Tom Wang/Shutterstock)

For decades, preparing for climate change felt like waiting for a meteor to hit: Sure, it could happen. But the threat didn't feel imminent compared to the challenges businesses faced. 

But concern has been rising as more communities and companies across the U.S.—including those in healthcare—have begun recognizing potential disruptions to the way they do business and seeking better ways to respond to a changing world.

Among the most tangible threats? 

"Changes in temperature and precipitation are increasing air quality and health risks from wildfire and ground-level ozone pollution," according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. "Rising air and water temperatures and more intense extreme events are expected to increase exposure to waterborne and foodborne diseases, affecting food and water safety. With continued warming, cold-related deaths are projected to decrease and heat-related deaths are projected to increase."

Changes in the geographic range and distribution of disease-carrying insects and pests are expected to expose more Americans to ticks that carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes that carry diseases such as Zika, West Nile and dengue fever, the report said. And extreme weather and climate-related events can have lasting mental health consequences, particularly if they destroy livelihoods or require community relocations.

Click below to read about the different impacts projected to affect different sectors of healthcare and what experts say leaders should be doing now to prepare.


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