Modeling the Health Risks of Climate Change

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November 3-4, 2014
The Pew Charitable Trusts D.C. Conference Center
901 E Street, NW, The Americas Room
Washington, D.C.

Please Note: Entrance to the Pew Conference Center is on 9th Street, approximately 50 ft from the corner of 9th and E Streets.

Climate change through shifting weather patterns, increases in frequency and intensity of heatwaves and other extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification among other environmental effects, poses risks to human health and well being. Moreover, these risks occur against a backdrop of changing socioeconomic conditions, medical technology, population demographics, health status, environmental conditions, and other factors important for determining health effects. Because these factors and climatic changes will vary in time and space, health impact models will need to be flexible so that they can reflect a range of plausible future scenarios, as well as systems-based so that they can capture important interactions amongst key driving forces. Robust models can inform approaches to improve adaptive capacity and prevent adverse health impacts, and also inform national and international discussions about climate policies and the economic consequences of action and inaction.

However, the development of health risk models of climate change has been slow. Inherent uncertainty in what health and socioeconomic trends the future will bring, limited research on the links between climate change events and health outcomes, and the variability and complexity human health and disease are a few of the hurdles that health risk modelers are endeavoring to overcome. Developing future scenarios of population demographics and infrastructure (e.g. food and water quality delivery systems, infectious disease diagnosis and management) is a critical part of constructing such robust and useful predictive models. Applying integrated systems-based approaches to health modeling may also provide useful insights into vulnerabilities and potential interventions to protect people’s health. A US Global Change Research Program Special Report on climate and health (first draft due August 2014) will provide the first federal integrated effort to model health outcomes and exposures related to a range of climate change related events including increased heat, air pollution, and populations of arthropod disease vectors (e.g. ticks and mosquitoes). These models are a key starting point for understanding health risks of climate change. However careful consideration and cross-disciplinary collaboration is needed for their further development and refinement.

This meeting will bring together environmental health researchers, climate change modelers, and public health experts and practitioners to explore new approaches to modeling the human health risks of future climate change. Speakers will discuss the state-of-development of health risk models and approaches to incorporate future scenarios of exposure-response and human system vulnerabilities. Participants will also explore the capability to generalize and scale-up health risk models, and potential approaches to integrate health risks into models of aggregated impact of climate change. Discussions will highlight research gaps, lessons learned, research needs, and potential next steps to improve health risks models of climate change.