Climate, Health, and People with Disabilities

Author: Frank Samonte, MD., PhD. - Contact: Contact Details
Published: 2022/10/14 - Updated: 2023/07/10
Publication Type: Opinion Piece / Editorial
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Op-ed article in relation to climate health and people with disabilities reflecting concurrent presentation for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) 2022 conference in Washington DC. Current health promotion strategies to address climate health in people with disabilities requires urgent attention to mitigate poor health outcomes in our communities. The risk of further harm from environmental exposures and extreme weather events to individuals with disability is at the highest levels historically this year.

Main Digest

People with disabilities (PWD) ranging from physical to mental health issues are vulnerable to environmental perturbations. The emergence of climate change as an important environmental factor in health outcome- particularly in low-income communities where health care delivery system is often inadequate- has profound effect in these individuals. Recent events in 2022 (Hurricane Ian & Fiona, western and southern plains drought, extreme heat, etc.) revealed profound effects from climate change. Increase in air pollution and heat effect are some of the environmental stressors that will exacerbate the already inadequate health care infrastructure for this vulnerable population.

Current strategies aimed at people with disabilities are primarily geared towards addressing delivery of medical care and related services, even though health inequities and environmental social justice remains underserved.

Health promotion strategies at the local municipal health level are focused on educating mothers and care providers in addressing nutrition and physical health in children with disabilities, while very little education and discussion is geared towards climate health issues. For instance, multiple recent studies have implicated air pollution as a climate health issue that can negatively impact neurocognitive development in children with developmental disabilities.

Air pollutants in the form of carbon monoxide and lead are two (2) of the leading by-product of equipment powered by fossil-fuels. These harmful elements have been implicated as important causes of poor developmental outcomes that will likely exacerbate current health outcomes from learning and behavioral disorders in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Indeed, the need to revisit local emergency management and response to people with disability continues to lag based on the guidelines stipulated under the ADA (American Disabilities Act).

Accessibility to proper health care during emergency evacuations and planning & recovery efforts are generally suboptimal if not lacking on people with disabilities. Greater action and preparedness particularly for individuals with sensory or cognitive disability should be in place in evacuation centers.

We Want to Be Clear

Current health promotion strategies to address climate health in people with disabilities requires urgent attention to mitigate poor health outcomes in our communities. The risk of further harm from environmental exposures and extreme weather events to individuals with disability is at the highest levels historically this year.

We are calling on allied health professionals (doctors, nurses, caregiver) to determine how the lack of adequate health strategies, geared towards disabled people are severely impacting poor outcome in their communities.

We need to determine better solutions and health policy strategies to prepare and mitigate the health effects of climatic extremes.

We need to broaden our health promotion strategies to include education and seminars aimed at mothers and care givers managing children with disabilities.

We hope to guide current state legislative agenda under the Department of Health and Human Services to include additional funding of Maternal & Child Health Bureau thru Title V agencies in order to address the gap in health promotion strategies.

These are steps that can remediate and look to improve the lack of adequate interventions in helping disabled individuals.

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Cite This Page (APA): Frank Samonte, MD., PhD.. (2022, October 14). Climate, Health, and People with Disabilities. Disabled World. Retrieved April 14, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/emergency/climate/pwd-climate.php

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