It has been a long time that an eminent physician Renee Salas, practices at Massachusetts General Hospital, has been trying to figure out a direct link between climate change and public health. Intense heat, growing quantity of pollutants in air, vector diseases and allergies with a longer duration and such types of problems consume the health of her patients at a fast speed. While in ER, she observes the warming fall out up closely. Attending a media assembly, she said, “My job as an emergency medicine doctor is to protect my patients and keep them healthy. “Climate change increasingly threatens my ability to do that.”
Dr. Salas was invited to a news briefing with the agenda of health costs associated with drastic climate change as a report circulates on the burning subject. In fact, it reveals the data about health costs to be around $820 billion per annum in America alone, because of such horrific shift in climate. She made a mention of a middle-aged man, suffering with Lyme disease and who visited her in ER for over 2 dozen times in an year. Such is a tick-borne disease that can give way to headache, muscle pain, fever and neurological damage.
During her briefing, reference to a 4 year old girl was also made who experienced asthma attack which got aggravated due to rising air pollution. To her mother, Dr. Salas had to provide a note to help her get office leaves for a valid reason.
Dr. Salas observed, “Receiving care for climate-sensitive diseases can quickly add up. “We can no longer ignore these costs and they have to be factored into our decision-making.”
Actually, Natural Resources Defense Council published a report on May 20, “The Costs of Inaction: The Economic Burden of Fossil Fuels and Climate Change on Health in the United States”. In the publishing, Medical Consortium on Climate and Health and the Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action, also highlighted certain numeric on costs of popular health due to climate change.
Among the criteria for health costs, certain issues are given space to, such as early deaths, healthcare for physical and mental complications following a major natural calamity, loss in wages owing to illnesses caused by climate and then, the medication prices too. Going by the report finding, total costs combining diagnosis, treatment and management of new cases of Lyme disease are estimated to be around $1.5 billion per year. For West Nile virus, which is caused by mosquitoes, total expenditure covering hospitalization, early ends, ER visits and such outpatient care, hovers around $1.1 billion per annum.
Now, on comparing today’s climate related health costs with the past, report indicates a heavy burden on taxpayers, purely due to climate change and as climate deterioration continues, researchers still predict a likely increase in it.
Vijay Limaye, scientist for environment health at NRDC says, “These impacts are here and now,” “They’re not just some distant threat.”
Even though, making estimates about exact price associated to any exact illnesses caused by climate, is complex and this is acknowledged by report authors also. Then, there is Federal Science agencies, such as US Environmental Protection Agency determines the impact of climate change on public health but no federal agency is there to garner idea about the costs of such impact. Besides, even at hospitals, illnesses are treated like any general health issues and not as anything related to climate and local health departments fall short of maintaining proper data about it. Consequently, researchers opine that actual health costs caused by climate change, is likely to be far higher than the $820 billion.
The report also highlights certain portion of population to be immensely vulnerable to such health issues and they are the ones who actually are burdened with costs too, such as Americans with low income, elderly people, children, pregnant women and so forth. One of the co-author of the report, Donald De Alwis says, “Our inaction is particularly devastating for vulnerable communities, but everyone is affected in some way by those health harms and/or costs”.
Ruth McDermott Levy, who holds the position of associate professor of environmental health at Villanova University, hails the report as such is type of directive before policymakers, health professionals and the general people that climate change affects all of us and we ought to put up concerted efforts in checking greenhouse gas emissions and should adhere to green life at the maximum.
Finally, in words of Dr. Salas, the ER doctor in Boston, “In the end, action on climate change is a prescription for improved health and equity”, “Climate action will also save us money.”
Now, dear readers, this has been the scenario from USA, which happens to be largest economy of the world too with healthcare policies such as Medicare and Medicaid in place and then, there are countries with free healthcare doled out to its citizens too. Now, let’s imagine about the countries where healthcare isn’t free and which have poor healthcare set-up with economies doused due to pandemic. How much vulnerable and critically exposed, such people are, before such unseen climatic conditions, which cast direct impact upon our health.