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Health Aspects of Climate Change
Speaker: Rita Colwell (download slides)
Summary of Remarks: While weather extremes, melting glaciers, and crop failures dominate the public discourse on global warming, human health risks from climate change are of growing concern to both the public and health professionals. This briefing will provide an overview of these health risks and health system responses. First, Dr. Rita Colwell (University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health) will review major health threats, including heat waves, weather and hydrologic extremes, reduced air quality, rising allergen exposures, infectious diseases, reduced agricultural output, mental health consequences, and civil disruption such as population displacement. She will draw particularly on her research on infectious diseases, including both vector-borne diseases (e.g. malaria, plague, and many viral diseases) and water-borne diseases (e.g. cholera), explaining recent scientific advances in understanding the links between environmental change and disease risk. Second, Dr. Howard Frumkin (CDC) will discuss the public health response to these threats, drawing on a framework developed at CDC and now being implemented at the Federal, state, and local levels. This response involves longstanding core public health activities, such as disease surveillance, outbreak investigations, vulnerability assessments, health communication, and preparedness planning. He will also emphasize the importance of assessing the health consequences of mitigation strategies, so decision-makers can choose the most health-protective approaches. Finally, Dr, Jonathan Patz (University of Wisconsin) will introduce the concept of co-benefits, a key strategy in both addressing climate change and promoting health. For example, transportation strategies that reduce travel demand and favor walking, bicycling, and transit over automobiles, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote physical activity as well as improve air quality. The net result is a steep drop in cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma and other ailments. Dr. Patz will cite recent analyses in the US suggesting that climate change mitigation could offer a substantial opportunity to improve the health of the public and save billions of dollars in healthcare costs and worker productivity.
Excerpt from: Climate Change and Human Health. February, 2010.
Watch Video (17 minutes, 47 seconds):
Dr. Rita Colwell is Distinguished University Professor both at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Senior Advisor and Chairman Emeritus, Canon US Life Sciences, Inc., and President and CEO of CosmosID, Inc. Her interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water, and health, and she is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world.
Dr. Colwell served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation, 1998-2004. In her capacity as NSF Director, she served as Co-chair of the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council. One of her major interests include K-12 science and mathematics education, graduate science and engineering education and the increased participation of women and minorities in science and engineering.
Dr. Colwell has held many advisory positions in the U.S. Government, nonprofit science policy organizations, and private foundations, as well as in the international scientific research community. She is a nationally-respected scientist and educator, and has authored or co-authored 17 books and more than 750 scientific publications. She produced the award-winning film, Invisible Seas, and has served on editorial boards of numerous scientific journals.
Before going to NSF, Dr. Colwell was President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and Professor of Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University Maryland. She was also a member of the National Science Board from 1984 to 1990.
Dr. Colwell has previously served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology and also as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Washington Academy of Sciences, the American Society for Microbiology, the Sigma Xi National Science Honorary Society, and the International Union of Microbiological Societies. Dr. Colwell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, the Royal Society of Canada, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. She is Immediate Past-President of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).
Dr. Colwell has also been awarded 54 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education, including her Alma Mater, Purdue University and is the recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, bestowed by the Emperor of Japan, and the 2006 National Medal of Science awarded by the President of the United States. Dr. Colwell is an honorary member of the microbiological societies of the UK, Australia, France, Israel, Bangladesh, and the U.S. and has held several honorary professorships, including the University of Queensland, Australia. A geological site in Antarctica, Colwell Massif, has been named in recognition of her work in the polar regions.
Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, Dr. Colwell holds a B.S. in Bacteriology and an M.S. in
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