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The Detrimental Effects Climate Change Has on Health

Jobs in public health address the impact of a changing world.

Climate change is a global health emergency and one of the greatest threats to health today.1 And as climate change accelerates, so do the challenges for the world’s people—and for public health professionals and the communities they serve.

What is climate change? The U.S. Environmental Protection agency defines it as: “Any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, wind patterns, or other weather-related effects that occur over several decades or longer.” 2


Climate Change: Mastering the Public Health Role, a joint publication of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports some of the biggest possible perils may be:3

  • Heat stress–induced illness and death
  • Air pollution-related health effects
  • Infectious disease, including water-, food-, vector-, and rodent-borne diseases
  • Malnutrition
  • Extreme weather-related health effects
  • Storm surge–related drownings and injuries
  • Health problems associated with displaced, refugee populations 

As the global health community plans strategies to address the effects of climate change, they’re studying how factors like geography, socioeconomic levels, race, and ethnicity affect communities. In Health Equity and Climate Change, APHA explains that different populations may be more vulnerable than others. For example:4

  • The rate of heat-related deaths in the African American population is 150%–200% greater than for the non-Hispanic white population.
  • African Americans have a 36% higher rate of asthma incidents and are three times more likely to die or visit the emergency room from asthma-related complication than other ethnic groups.
  • Traditional Native American and Alaska Native (NA/AN) diets and subsistence hunting and fishing are at risk due to climate change. 
  • NA/AN communities lack access to clean, potable drinking water at higher rates than others. Warmer water temperatures may exacerbate already high rates of diarrhea-associated hospitalizations.
  • Nearly one in two Latinos live in counties with poor air quality. Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma as non-Latino whites, and Latino children living in areas with high levels of air pollution have a heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. 

Public health professionals are among the world’s most powerful weapons in fighting the detrimental effects of climate change on health. They are key in detecting, communicating, and managing health impacts on affected communities. They also play a crucial role in creating strategic plans and campaigns to help communities build resiliency for climate challenges ahead.

“We’re committed to making sure the nation knows about the effects of climate change on health,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of APHA. “If anyone doesn’t think this is a severe problem, they are fooling themselves.”1

Join the Timely Work of Public Health Professionals

Would you like to be a change agent, working on the front lines to create healthier, happier lives and communities? If so, you may be just one degree away from a rewarding public health career.

A Master of Public Health (MPH) online degree program can prepare you to address the urgent challenges ahead, while you continue working in your current position. If you’re researching MPH programs, look for accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit public health programs and schools of public health.

Walden University, an innovative leader in distance education with decades of commitment to social change, received CEPH accreditation for its MPH program in 2019. CEPH accreditation assures the program has met accepted public health profession standards in practice, research, and service.

In Walden’s Master of Public Health online degree program, you’ll:

• Gain a strong, up-to-the moment grounding in the foundations of public health from scholars and practitioners in the government, health, and nonprofit sectors.
• Benefit from a global perspective on public health, enhanced by the experiences of students from all over the world.
• Be challenged by state-of-the-art, interactive simulations—and case studies—that allow you to participate in real-world, public health issues and solutions.
• Immerse yourself in a field experience for an immediate impact on your public health career.

Public health careers attract the best and the brightest. Students in Walden’s public health graduate program come from diverse backgrounds. They are nurses from private practices or hospitals, business managers and statisticians, ecologists and environmental scientists, and health educators and journalists, among others.

An MPH degree opens the door to next-step career opportunities serving the great good. Master of Public Health graduates work as disease investigators, environmental health specialists, health officers, emergency preparedness and response coordinators, community health workers, and many other job roles.

Seize the opportunity to help change the trajectory of our world. There’s never been a more important and rewarding time to be a public health professional. Help communities create a better tomorrow for this and future generations with a Master of Public Health online.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering public health graduate programs including the Master of Public Health (MPH). Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,