Environmental Public Health and Climate Change

Environmental Public Health

The health of Canadians is affected by the natural and built environments in which we live, work and play. Our daily environments are part of the social determinants of health and help to shape the quality of our health and the inequities of health across society. Throughout our lives, the quality of the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat represent just a few of the environmental risks posed to our health.

Environmental exposures are major contributors to disease, disability and death. Pregnant women, children, seniors, Aboriginal peoples and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

The Public Health Agency is here to help you understand how the environment can impact your health, and how we can all work together to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.

Climate Change

How Climate Change Threatens Public Health

Whether we like it or not, Canadians know that, no matter where we live, the weather can harm our health and well-being. Extreme cold can cause hypothermia, intense rainfall can contaminate water supplies, smog can heighten the effects of asthma, and severe events such as severe thunderstorms and floods can cause injury, economic hardship and mental distress.

Climate change (defined as long term change in current normal climate conditions, such as temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, snow cover and sea level rise) is expected to intensify these and other threats to public health over the coming years.

Pregnant women, children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses will be most at risk.

Learn more by reading our fact sheet about Climate Change and Public Health.

Adapting to Climate Change

The Agency is preparing to address potential health effects caused by climate change in much the same way that it prepares for the possibilities of bioterrorism and pandemic influenza. It does this by gathering information about the links between climate change and human health, and creating strategies to prevent and adapt to threats.

For example, the spread, frequency and intensity of certain diseases within Canada could be affected by climate change over the coming decades. Already, West Nile virus and Lyme disease are endemic in some areas of the country. Weather conditions, such as warmer winters followed by hot summers and heavy rainfall, can encourage the proliferation of these and other diseases.

One such Agency response to climate change and infectious diseases was the Pilot Infectious Disease Impact and Response Systems (PIDIRS) program.

Moving forward, the Agency is working to strengthen its engagement on the public health impacts related to a changing climate, with the Preventative Public Health Systems and Adaptation to a Changing Climate Program.

One Health

One Health (previously called One World One Health) is an approach for addressing complex public health issues – issues such as:

  • vector-borne disease
  • influenza pandemics
  • food safety
  • antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

This approach is integrated and holistic and considers challenges to health through a trans-disciplinary lens, incorporating animal health, human health and ecosystem health.

Factors such as growth in human and livestock populations, climate change, and the globalization of trade in animals and animal products will likely intensify, creating favorable conditions for the emergence of new and more complex public health threats. Consequently, public health threats will continue to be a significant economic, social and public health burden worldwide.

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