The Surprising Ways the Climate Impacts Public Health (And What Counties Can Do About It)

Climate Health Connection - Tresscott
Washington County Environmental Health Director Sara Lou Trescott presents on the Climate-Health Connection Panel

What do salmonella, septic systems, Lyme disease, Dengue Fever, and animal populations have in common? They were all topics of discussion for the ways in which the climate is impacting public health at the MACo Summer Conference session, “The Climate-Health Connection Will Blow You Away.”

Sara Lou Trescott, Environmental Health Director for Washington County set the stage with an overview of the connection between the climate and public health. Trescott touched upon the environmental health impacts such as an increase of difficulties in finding adequate drinking water wells, a decrease of areas for on-site septic disposal systems (OSDS), and delays in economic development as well as public health impacts of an increase in health issues such as heart disease, respiratory distress, obesity, mental health, and zoonotic disease.

Climate Health Connection - Naldony and Group
Hands from all around the audience raised when Robyn Nadolny asked whether audience members or someone they know has been bitten by a tick. From left to right: Amir Sapkota, Thomas Burke, Robyn Nadolny, Delegate Andrew Cassilly, Sara Lou Trescott

Robyn M. Nadolny, PhD, Biologist and Program Coordinator for the Tick-Borne Disease Laboratory in the Army Public Health Center delved into the world of ticks, which are the #1 cause of vector-borne disease in the U.S. Nadolny shared about the dozen or so  human pathogens ticks can transmit and how the climate, particularly warmer winters,  is one significant factor in how the geographical range for ticks and the number of pathogens they carry are growing.

Climate Health Connection - SapoktaAmir Sapkota, PhD, Professor and Director of Exposome Small Molecule Core Facility at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health shared data from the Maryland Climate and Health Profile Report. Sapktota highlighted the adverse impacts that extreme weather events have on public health and noted how the impacts are not equally distributed across geographic areas or population groups; are exacerbated by existing disparities, individual sensitivity, preexisting conditions, and capacity to adapt; and how planning is critical for building resilience.

Climate Health Connection - BurkeTom Burke, Professor, Dept of Health Policy & Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health rounded out the panel by emphasizing just how profound an impact the climate has on our daily lives and the health of our counties. Burke stressed the important role county public health officials play in ensuring that there is clean water, safe food, housing, and sanitation and in communicating the risks and responding to emergencies that climate change and extreme weather events generate. He urged state and local collaboration for identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, adapting to change and building resilience for the future.

The session was moderated by Delegate Andrew Cassilly and held on Thursday, August 15, 2019.

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