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Identifying Vulnerable Subpopulations for Climate Change Health Effects in the United States

Balbus, John M. MD, MPH; Malina, Catherine AB

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: January 2009 - Volume 51 - Issue 1 - pp 33-37
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318193e12e
Original Articles: Special Section on Climate Change and Health

Climate change can be expected to have differential effects on different subpopulations. Biological sensitivity, socioeconomic factors, and geography may each contribute to heightened risk for climate-sensitive health outcomes, which include heat stress, air pollution health effects, extreme weather event health effects, water-, food-, and vector-borne illnesses. Particularly vulnerable subpopulations include children, pregnant women, older adults, impoverished populations, people with chronic conditions and mobility and cognitive constraints, outdoor workers, and those in coastal and low-lying riverine zones. For public health planning, it is critical to identify populations that may experience synergistic effects of multiple risk factors for health problems, both related to climate change and to other temporal trends, with specific geographic factors that convey climate-related risks.

From the Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, DC.

Address correspondence to: John M. Balbus, MD, MPH, Environmental Defense Fund, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20009; E-mail: jbalbus@edf.org.

©2009The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine