Public Health, Bioethics and Policy: Protecting Our Health and Environment (pp. 535-540)
Authors: Cheryl C. Macpherson
Abstract: Bioethics illuminates considerations that bear on health and healthcare. From a bioethical perspective this paper reviews some of the most credible medical literature on health impacts of climate change, highlights concerns regarding rural children, and provides perspective on public health responses and policy. Climate change has reciprocal and interconnected effects on humans and ecosystems. Global population growth elevates energy use, landfill and toxic waste, and animal consumption with dynamic and interactive contributions to climate change, food insecurity, morbidity, and mortality. The most pronounced harms threaten not only health but child growth and development – with individual and societal costs. Rural populations are more directly exposed to their environments than others and have limited access to resources. Rural children may therefore have less opportunity to learn skills central to protecting their health, environment, and future. Immediate and concerted responses grounded in public health evidence can mitigate climate change and its health impacts. Public health is essential in generating data, policy, and effective responses to climate-related concerns. Regional data on disease and risk factors should engage social marketing and drive policy and behavior change. Public health and bioethics have central roles in framing public opinion and generating political will to reform policy and practices in healthcare, agriculture, and other sectors that contribute to climate change.