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Climate and Health Program

Severe Weather, Climate and Health

New Hampshire residents are concerned about the impact of extreme weather events like heat waves, storms, and floods that have increased over the past few decades. People are also concerned about the slow rise in temperature that is predicted to continue for the coming decades in the Northeast (USC, 2007 Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol).

Changes in our climate in New Hampshire will likely affect important issues such as heat injuries, allergy, asthma and infectious disease. In light of these facts, public health officials can begin to evaluate the risk of extreme weather events in their location, and plan for changing conditions, and changing health trends. A NH Climate Action Plan is being coordinated by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and has specific recommendations for addressing public health issues. An informed planning effort will allow us to meet the challenges ahead with more focused resources and build more resilient communities.

Our vision is that New Hampshire and its local communities will have organized, coordinated and effective systems in place to identify, prevent, prepare for, and respond to health hazards associated with our changing climate. The NH DHHS is part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded national collaboration called the Climate Ready States and Cities Initiative (CRSCI) to help local communities prepare for public health impacts."

Severe Weather and Heat Injuries

  • Changing climate patterns have caused increased temperatures, and may lead to more heat stress.
  • Rainfall and precipitation are predicted to increase, yet will likely occur as fewer, heavier rain events, separated by longer dry periods or droughts.
  • More severe weather events will likely cause injuries, such as direct trauma from high winds, heat stress from rising temperatures, and drowning or trauma from flooding.
  • Populations at risk include the very old, the very young, and those with chronic illness or poor health status. Special groups with social needs (i.e. poverty, homeless, etc.) may need increased social services.
  • People who spend more time outdoors, such as laborers and athletes, are at greater risk for injury.

Suggested Individual Actions for the Public

  • Protect yourself and children by preparing for severe weather events with a home disaster plan.
  • Build a disaster kit for each person in your home, with a three-day supply of food, water, and any medicines or special items they will need.

Suggested Public Health Actions

  • Public health officials at the state and local level should develop tracking systems to monitor the health effects of extreme weather.
  • Identify populations at risk for disasters (i.e. people living in coastal areas, floodplains, and by rivers) and coordinate with human service agencies to implement prevention and response plans.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan for the management of the effects of severe weather including flooding, water damage/mold, ice damage, water shortages, and heat injury. The NH State Hazard Mitigation Plan provides a guide to assessing regional risks and hazards.

Respiratory Illness

  • Climate change may increase the number of air pollution action days, and change pollen/mold levels outside and allergen levels indoors.
  • Sensitive populations with asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other chronic respiratory conditions may be triggered more often or more severely.
  • Healthy people may have an increased risk of developing respiratory disease, and will have to stay indoors more frequently to avoid pollution.
  • Populations at risk include the very old, very young, homeless, outdoor workers and active athletes.

Suggested Individual Actions for the Public

  • Protect yourself and children from air pollution by listening for Air Quality Alerts and pollen reports.
  • Know your own triggers for asthma/allergies, and treat them with environmental controls to reduce your triggers or use appropriate medication.

Suggested Public Health Actions

  • Develop surveillance tools to track the public health impacts of poor air quality.
  • Coordinate human service agencies to identify populations at risk for respiratory illness, and then develop prevention and response plans.
  • Provide targeted outreach to populations at risk to reduce asthma and allergy events.

Infectious Diseases

Suggested Individual Actions for the Public

  • Protect yourself and children from mosquito and tick bites.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of illnesses such as Lyme disease, EEE, and West Nile Virus infection.
  • Learn about the changing climate, and conserve energy.

Suggested Public Health Actions

  • Continue active surveillance for human and animal illness, such as acute encephalitis (brain swelling), during the summer months
  • Continue funding of insect virus (arboviral) surveillance via trapping, testing, and analysis.
  • Increase regular disease surveillance for human cases of West Nile, EEE, and Lyme Disease.
  • Support integrated health surveillance networks, such as the NH Environmental Public Health Tracking program (EPHT).
  • Develop a long term policy for tracking the patterns of insects (i.e. vector surveillance), including regular trapping of mosquitoes and ticks.
 
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New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
129 Pleasant Street | Concord, NH | 03301-3852


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