Linking Climate Change to Health
Prince George, B.C. – UNBC has signed on to the Health Educators Climate Commitment, an initiative that involves more than 100 schools in Canada, the US and the rest of the world.The initiative means future health professionals will be trained to address the health impacts associated to climate change.
Those health impacts can range from a safe and adequate food supply to a person’s mental health “The most interesting part of the story on climate change is that it affects things that make us well and healthy” says Michelle Connolly, UNBC’s coordinator for the Pacific institute for Climate Solutions.
“In B.C. and western Canada for instance, much of the water we drink comes from rain, snow and ice. Climate change is affecting the patterns of rain and snow and in the summer, ice is the most important source of water for lakes and rivers and we know that in B.C. almost all glaciers are shrinking. So that is an example of something all people need” says Connolly.
Warmer waters and drought also place pressure on the fishery, while ungulates, such as Moose, caribou and deer, need a good snowpack to access food and avoid predators “We’ve been seeing lower snowfalls, lower snow packs, so if there is more mortality of these species then there is less healthy wild game.”
Connolly says humans are dependent on the natural world “When people say impacts on health, they aren’t just referring to physical health but mental and emotional health, it’s not just meeting your basic needs.”
UNBC’s School of Health Sciences has already identified a working group for implementation of actions related to the Health Educators Climate Commitment. The School of Health Sciences will also work in collaboration with faculty members from the Northern Medical Program and UNBC’s School of Nursing. Together, they will look towards gaining an understanding of the possible consequences of climate change on health, and how those consequences can best be addressed.