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TFAH's Statement On The Administration's Climate Action Plan: Good For The Nation's Health And Wealth

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement from Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) on the presidential memorandum issued today highlighting the Administration's new climate plan aimed at cutting carbon pollution.

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"TFAH is pleased President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum highlighting the Administration's new climate plan aimed at cutting carbon pollution.

The changing climate has serious ramifications for our health, and we're encouraged to see this reflected in the plan.  More extreme weather events, rising temperatures and worsening air quality mean we'll see an upswing in climate-related illnesses and injuries.  This plan is an important step in the right direction to address climate change and to ramp up activities to protect people from the health harm it poses. 

We hope to see rapid action to free up pending regulations in the coming months.  It's no exaggeration to say these are life-saving measures – and they are long overdue.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should move rapidly to issue final carbon pollution standards for new power plants based on the proposed standards released in May 2012.  The EPA should likewise move quickly to propose and finalize standards for existing power plants.

As important next steps to help achieve the national goals of addressing the health impact of climate change, TFAH also recommends:
  • Addressing climate-related health issues, illnesses and injuries should become a major priority for the National Prevention Council. All 17 participating Federal agencies should work together to develop strategies and policies to improve the health and well-being of Americans, and should develop a government-wide action plan that addresses the health-related consequences of climate change.
  • Every state should have a comprehensive climate change adaption plan that includes a public health assessment and response.  State and local health agencies should engage in public education campaigns and establish relationships with vulnerable populations as part of any plan.  Only 15 states currently have completed comprehensive adaptation plans, according to a review by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) environmental health and preparedness programs should prioritize supporting and ensuring states and localities understand the impact of climate change and apply this to long-range health planning. This program receives minimal resources and has experienced cuts recently.
  • Incorporating climate-related risks and mitigation into relevant public health and emergency preparedness grant guidance from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), CDC, and other related agencies. 

Communities across the United States are at-risk for negative health effects associated with climate change.  Urban communities face natural disasters, such as floods and heat waves.  Rural communities may be threatened by food insecurity due to shifts in crop growing conditions, reduced water resources, heat and storm damage.  Coastal and low-lying areas could see an increase in floods, hurricanes and tropical storms.  Mountain regions are at risk of increasing heat and vector-borne diseases due to melting of mountain glaciers and changes in snow melt.  And communities around the country could experience new insect-based infectious diseases that used to only be affiliated with high temperature regions.

Asthma and other respiratory issues are also major concerns.  For instance, we've been seeing rates of asthma rising -- the number of Americans diagnosed with asthma climb by 4.3 million from 2001 to 2009.  Right now, around one in 10 children and one in 12 adults have asthma. 

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