Photo: Doctor with a Stethoscope by Online Marketing on Unsplash
With a warming planet, comes a growing list of health concerns for people around the world. Time and again, scientific studies have linked climate change to increased risks of various health problems such as Lyme disease and asthma. However, information about these risks and how to protect ourselves against them is often hard to find.
That's where a new online initiative developed by the Ontario Public Health Association comes into play. The initiative called # MakeitBetter seeks to inform the public and health care workers about the risks associated with global warming and offers tips on how to protect ourselves against these health problems.
"Climate change is one of the most critical threats to human health," Pegeen Walsh, Executive Director at OPHA, said in a press release. "As health professionals, we all have a responsibility to kids and their parents to raise awareness of these risks and give people the tools and information they need to protect their families."
OPHA is a non-profit organization that provides guidance regarding public health concerns in Ontario. Their online initiative focuses on three health problems connected to climate change, including Lyme disease, asthma, and heat-related illnesses. The risk of these three health problems has increased dramatically in the past few years.
Warmer temperatures have contributed to a rise in the number of ticks carrying Lyme disease, increasing the likelihood of contracting this illness. This is evident in Ontario as the number of people with Lyme disease in the province has risen dramatically in the past decade. According to the MakeitBetter website, in 2009, there were only around 30 cases of Lyme disease per year compared to over 300 cases in 2015. Lyme disease is an inflammatory condition that causes symptoms such as a rash and fever. It's dangerous when left untreated and can result in neurological and cardiac disorders.
Climate change is also leading to warmer days. June 2019 was the hottest on record in 140 years. Extreme heat increases the risk of heatstroke and heat-related illnesses, especially in vulnerable populations such as children. Warmer weather also increases the risk of air pollution from forest fires and pollen, which leads to a higher chance of asthma attacks, according to OPHA.
The MakeitBetter online campaign provides more details about each health issue mentioned above, driving home the seriousness of climate change and offering people solutions to help mitigate growing health risks. The initiative also asks members of the public to take a pledge to protect children in the province from climate related health risks by staying informed, sharing knowledge, and supporting initiatives that fight against climate change. There are currently over 200 people who have signed the online pledge.
At a time when global warming is a bigger threat than ever before, staying informed about how to protect ourselves is important for maintaining our health . Hopefully, this new initiative will help provide people with the information needed to stay healthy in a changing climate.
By: Nicole Babb
Nicole Babb is an aspiring journalist from St. John’s, Newfoundland. She recently graduated from Carleton University with a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology. During her time at Carleton, Nicole wrote articles for the university’s student newspaper and completed a health reporting course which sparked her interest in science journalism and communication. She is passionate about writing and photography, and she also enjoys learning about new scientific research.
Growing up near the ocean, she has always been curious about marine life and she is especially interested in research and reporting concerning the ocean, climate change, and endangered species. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys reading, canoeing, playing basketball and hiking. She also loves animals and spending time with her dog. Nicole is currently residing in Ottawa and she is looking forward to working as a volunteer for Science Writers and Communicators of Canada.