Climate Change and Health
Climate change isn’t just bad for the environment—it’s bad for our health. Exposure to extreme temperatures can result in heat-related illness and worsening of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes. Climate change can impact our mental health as well.
Flooding caused by severe storms can spread disease and contaminate food and water supplies. Rising temperatures and other factors associated with climate change will increase our exposure to disease-carrying insects and rodents.
Who is at Risk?
People who are already at risk for poor health due to social and economic factors—limited financial resources, food insecurity, racism, lack of safe or available housing, limited English proficiency, and lack of access to quality medical and mental health care—will likely fare worse in a changing climate than those with greater resources.
Other groups who are particularly vulnerable to climate-related health impacts include those who are older, living alone or socially isolated, pregnant, or living with chronic health conditions and disabilities. Young children and people who work or play sports outdoors are also susceptible.
What You Can Do
You can reduce the risk of health impacts associated with climate change by planning ahead and engaging with your community. Some ideas to get started:
Get to Know Your Neighbors
- Get social! Meet your neighbors and engage in community events.
- Get to know your neighbors before an emergency and find out who may need assistance.
- Create neighborhood “buddy” networks for you and your neighbors to check on one another.
- Take the conversation into your community to places of worship, schools, and community-based organizations.
Plan and Prepare
- Make an emergency “go-kit.”
- Be prepared! Use these tips from Ready.gov to plan ahead.
- How safe is your home during an emergency? Use this list from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to be ready.
- Sign up for emergency alerts.
- Know the assets and resources in your community (e.g. cooling shelters, community centers, senior centers)
- Learn how to stay cool in extreme heat. (CDC)
- Read what the CDC has published about preparing for climate change and extreme heat.
Build Knowledge and Skills
- Take a class in first aid or CPR.
- Volunteer (e.g., donate blood, work in a food pantry, join a community garden).
- Learn how Cambridge is reducing pollution and protecting natural resources.
- Know which medications increase susceptibility to heat-related illness.
Read about the warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illness (CDC) and how to prevent heat-related illness. (CDC)
Updated: June 13, 2022