Public Health Officials Not Prepared To Address Climate Change Issues
Local health officials in California are not fully prepared to respond to more frequent and more severe heat waves, bad air days, disease epidemics and other public health threats arising from climate change, the Sacramento Bee reports.
On Thursday, Sacramento County officials said they have yet to define their roles as first responders to illnesses and deaths that are expected from climate change.
The statements mirror findings from a nationwide survey that the Environmental Defense Fund submitted to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Thursday. The survey found that more than 80% of 133 local health officials who responded to the survey said they lacked training to prepare climate-adaptation plans for their agencies.
However, a survey of health officers by the Public Policy Institute of California found that local health agencies do have programs to help minimize climate-related threats, such as heat emergencies, and disease-carrying rodents and insects.
In addition, the California Department of Public Health is building a computer system for health officials statewide to report disease outbreaks. The system is intended to improve communications among local health officials about infections or signs of an outbreak.
Bonnie Sorensen, chief deputy director of policy and programs for the department, said the system should help detect climate-related infections before they become epidemics.
The state also has enhanced its emergency response strategy for heat waves (Bowman, Sacramento Bee, 4/25).