Global environmental change and health
Over the past century there has been growing scientific interest in environmentally-related illnesses. Caused by massive human pressures on natural systems, current global environmental change is unprecedented, and poses various risks to human well-being and health.
In this article, Anthony McMichael explores the nature of global environmental change and its impacts on human health. He notes that we have begun to live beyond Earth’s capacity to supply, absorb, and replenish. As a result, human health is affected by changes originating from beyond the population’s immediate living space, for example through impacts on food production and freshwater availability. Changes in global systems also increase the likelihood of adverse inter-generational impacts on human health.
The influence of climate change on human health has received most research interest to date and, while direct links between health and climate change are difficult to prove, there have been reports of climate-related changes in the geographical distribution of certain infectious diseases, such as cholera and malaria. McMichael predicts that global environmental change is likely to become a major focus for health science research in the future, and a key input to international discourse on sustainability.
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