Lab Matters Fall 2022 - Page 12


The “ Greatest Threat Facing Humanity ” and Public Health Labs

By Nicholas Ancona , MPH , specialist , Environmental Health and Erin Morin , MHS , associate specialist , Environmental Health
According to the World Health Organization , “ climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity .” It increases the occurrence of heat waves and other extreme weather events such as storms , flooding and wildfires , which can all negatively affect the public ’ s health .
Many tests public health laboratories already perform will have even more relevance with the changing climate on regional , national and international scales . Given the established testing infrastructure and scientific expertise already in public health laboratories , they have the capability to expand their testing to meet existing and future climate change data needs .
But climate change testing and data needs require an enormous investment to start connecting federal , state and local efforts . While federal climate change funds were not expanded in 2022 as expected , APHL ’ s Environmental Health Committee ( EHC ) and Environmental Laboratory Science Committee ( ELSC ) have been incrementally exploring how public health laboratories can connect their everyday missions to address climate change .
Committees Discuss Climate Change
Public health laboratory testing was generally established to understand direct cause and effect . And while it appears obvious that public health laboratory data would help contribute to understanding how climate change affects health at local , regional and national levels , climate change is a giant entangled web of interconnected direct and indirect causes and effects . It takes work to begin understanding these connections and using them to justify expanding testing volume and capabilities .
At their annual EHC and ELSC meetings in September 2021 , members learned about the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’ s ( CDC ’ s ) climate change initiatives :
CDC National Center for Environmental Health , Impact of Climate Change on Human Health . Source : https :// www . cdc . gov / climateandhealth / effects / default . htm
Climate and Health Taskforce , which is working to determine how climate change cross-cuts through all of CDC ’ s programs
National Environmental Public Health Tracking ( NEPHT ) network , which has the potential to store state environmental health data all in one place by consolidating state dashboard information
Building Resilience Against Climate Effects ( BRACE ) program , which helps communities prepare for health effects caused by climate change .
They also learned how the US Department of Health and Human Services is working to understand the environmental justice implications of climate change , and of the US Environmental Protection Agency ’ s list of climate change indicators and how health impacts are covered in its Climate Change and Risk Analysis project .
A major part of moving forward to connect public health laboratory data to these federal climate efforts is understanding which tests provide useful data for climate purposes . Based upon EHC and ELSC presentations and discussions , a list of climate change exposure pathways that have connections to public health laboratory testing was developed ( see chart ).
Access Information : Climate for Health Ambassadors Training Course This training course can help public health laboratory scientists understand and communicate the connections between climate and health and potential actions to help address these challenges . Use the registration information included here to access the course free of charge .
Registration Link : https :// ecoamerica . litmos . com / self-signup /
Registration Code : CfHAmbassadorAPHL
10 LAB MATTERS Fall 2022
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