Objective: To develop public health adaptation strategies and to project the impacts of climate
change on human health, indicators of vulnerability and preparedness along with accurate
surveillance data on climate-sensitive health outcomes are needed. We researched and
developed environmental health indicators for inputs into human health vulnerability
assessments for climate change and to propose public health preventative actions.
Data sources: We conducted a review of the scientific literature to identify outcomes and actions
that were related to climate change. Data sources included governmental and nongovernmental
agencies and the published literature.
Data extraction: Sources were identified and assessed for completeness, usability, and accuracy. Priority
was then given to identifying longitudinal data sets that were applicable at the state
and community level.
Data synthesis: We present a list of surveillance indicators for practitioners and policy makers that
include climate-sensitive health outcomes and environmental and vulnerability indicators,
as well as mitigation, adaptation, and policy indicators of climate change.
Conclusions: A review of environmental health indicators for climate change shows that data exist
for many of these measures, but more evaluation of their sensitivity and usefulness
is needed. Further attention is necessary to increase data quality and availability
and to develop new surveillance databases, especially for climate-sensitive morbidity.
More than half the world’s human population lives within 100 km of the coast, and
that number is expected to increase by 25% over the next two decades. Consequently,
coastal ecosystems are at serious risk. Larger coastal populations and increasing
development have led to increased loading of toxic substances, nutrients and pathogens
with subsequent algal blooms, hypoxia, beach closures, and damage to coastal fisheries.
Recent climate change has led to the rise in sea level with loss of coastal wetlands
and saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers. Coastal resources have traditionally
been monitored on a stressor-by-stressor basis such as for nutrient loading or dissolved
oxygen. To fully measure the complexities of coastal systems, we must develop a new
set of ecologic indicators that span the realm of biological organization from genetic
markers to entire ecosystems and are broadly applicable across geographic regions
while integrating stressor types. We briefly review recent developments in ecologic
indicators and emphasize the need for improvements in understanding of stress–response
relationships, contributions of multiple stressors, assessments over different spatial
and temporal scales, and reference conditions. We provide two examples of ecologic
indicators that can improve our understanding of these inherent problems: a) the use of photopigments as indicators of the interactive effects of nutrients and
hydrology, and b) biological community approaches that use multiple taxa to detect effects on ecosystem
structure and function. These indicators are essential to measure the condition of
coastal resources, to diagnose stressors, to communicate change to the public, and
ultimately to protect human health and the quality of the coastal environment.
A working group coordinated by the World Health Organization developed a set of indicators
to protect children’s health from environmental risks and to support current and future
European policy needs. On the basis of identified policy needs, the group developed
a core set of 29 indicators for implementation plus an extended set of eight additional
indicators for future development, focusing on exposure, health effects, and action.
As far as possible, the indicators were designed to use existing information and are
flexible enough to be developed further to meet the needs of policy makers and changing
health priorities. These indicators cover most of the priority topic areas specified
in the Children’s Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE) as adopted
in the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in 2004, and will be
used to monitor the implementation of CEHAPE. This effort can be viewed as an integral
part of the Global Initiative on Children’s Environmental Health Indicators, launched
at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.