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Opinion Piece: "We Need a National Institute of Climate Change and Health"

Scientific American published a commentary by Dr. Richard Jackson, professor emeritus of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and Dr. Howard Frumkin, professor emeritus of public health at the University of Washington, on the need for federally-funded “National Institute of Climate Change and Health” as part of the National Institutes of Health division.

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Date: 
Sunday, November 22, 2020
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The NIH has a budget of over $40 billion—but spends a measly $9 million on this looming public health emergency

If there was any lingering doubt that climate change threatens human health and well-being, this year put it to rest. Wildfire smoke aggravated heart disease and lung disease up and down the West Coast and across the country. A record-breaking hurricane season killed and injured people from North Carolina to Texas, and left tens of thousands homeless and at risk of PTSD and other mental health problems. Oppressive heat across the Southwest imperiled outdoor workers and athletes, the elderly and the poor, and people with underlying health problems, with risks ranging from heatstroke to heart attacks and even death.

2020 reinforced another lesson: If we don’t prepare for health disasters and manage them skillfully, informed by the best evidence, then people suffer and die needlessly. In confronting a novel virus, the United States failed in its response. and we continue to have one of the world’s highest COVID-19 death rates.

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