Giving Compass' Take:

• Chelsea Kivland and Anne Sosin discuss the impacts of climate change on public health, especially for poor U.S. citizens who lack protection from natural disasters and access to healthcare. 

• How can funders improve public health and mitigate climate change at the same time? 

• Learn about the mental health consequences of climate change

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, recently announced: “All roads lead to universal health coverage.” Discussions for how to translate this vision into a roadmap for action is central to the agenda of the WHO’s executive board meeting this week in Geneva. Yet focusing on access is not enough. The imperative for access must be paired with a frank acknowledgment that climate change is making communities around the world more vulnerable to ill health.

Even as we move to close the access gap, a string of natural disasters in late 2017, including successive hurricanes and widespread forest fires, threaten to widen the vulnerability gap. Restoring health care systems is vital for vulnerable communities, but it will merely treat the symptoms and not the causes of post-disaster illness. We believe that policymakers must address the link between environmental and health crises.

Closing the access gap has been a long battle and the gains cannot be underestimated. Yet the challenge ahead is even more daunting. Whereas increasing access has centered on extending health care technologies to underserved populations, closing the vulnerability gap will require approaches that extend beyond the health sector and national borders.

In the past year, the health care debate in the U.S. has centered on attempts to limit or expand access to care. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has left the Paris climate accord and unraveled environmental protections for national and transnational corporations – with little resistance from health advocates. We believe that leaders must recognize that environmental policy is health policy. Rollbacks of environmental regulations will cause far greater consequences on health, in the U.S. and globally, than any health care bill.

Read the full article about climate change and public health by Chelsea Kivland and Anne Sosin at The Conversation.