The impact of climate change on our patients’ health and the family physician’s role
Climate change continues to have a detrimental effect on the overall health of people globally. The average yearly temperature has continually risen since the late 19th century and is projected to continue rising for decades ahead. Increased temperature has been linked to decreased sleep quality and increased heat strokes and pregnancy complications. Adverse effects on cardiopulmonary health have been linked to climate change. Air pollution is correlated to an increased risk of myocardial infarctions and aggravation of symptoms pertaining to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Lengthening of the pollination season because of warmer weather due to climate change has led to an increase in allergy-related rhinitis and asthma. Temperature increases have caused a lengthening of the transmission season of infectious disease, especially vector and water-borne diseases. Infectious disease has begun to spread to new areas globally due to increased temperatures, rainfall and flooding attributed to climate change. The mental health impacts attributed to climate change, including depression and anxiety, are escalating. With increased floods and hurricanes, people of certain geographic areas can experience an increase in acute stress, which may lead to chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. Family physicians are at the forefront of advising patients on how to handle the health effects of climate change. In addition to climate change's impact on health, patients of lower socioeconomic status are more at risk because of lack of adequate resources and financial stability. Through detailed histories, family physicians have an opportunity to identify affected patients and intervene earlier.