Climate change and health: Populations at risk
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Populations at risk
A good understanding of who is most likely to be impacted by the effects of a changing climate, advances adaptive actions to minimize the impacts. More vulnerable groups include:
- People who are chronically ill
- Low income and homeless people
- Disabled people
- People living off the land
- Northern residents
Socio-economic impacts on community health and well-being
A changing climate can increase the frequency, intensity or duration of extreme weather conditions which increases risks for vulnerable populations and communities in areas exposed to natural hazards.
- Demands on Health Care Services
Extra pressure is placed on Health care services by increased demands resulting from weather-related natural hazards, eg. floods.
- Disruption of Social Networks
Power outages can occur as a result of extreme weather-related events, which can affect our ability to communicate during emergencies.
- Interference with Livelihoods
People experience stress if their livelihoods and productivity are threatened, for example, farmers suffering crop failures and income losses due to droughts.
- Damage to, or unavailability of, housing and shelter
Climate change can increase the number of extreme weather events which can damage buildings. This causes trauma for people having to relocate, as occurred following the Saguenay River flood in 1996.
- Damage to critical infrastructures
Virtually all our infrastructures are designed for a specific climate, such as those related to food production, water management, energy production, storm sewer, drainage and sanitation systems, and housing and health infrastructures. Health risks can arise when any one of these systems fails or becomes compromised - as they may in a changing climate.
As an illustration, severe weather events can result in loss of income and productivity, relocation of people, increased stress for families, and higher costs for health care and social services. The 1998 ice storm, for example, was responsible for 28 deaths in Canada. Over 1.6 million Canadians were affected by electrical power failure, 2.6 million people could not perform their ordinary work, and economic losses amounted to $5.4 billion.
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