U.S. Funding is insufficient to address the human health impacts of and public health responses to climate variability and change.


Given the real risks that climate change poses for U.S. populations, the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies need to have robust intramural and extramural programs, with funding of > $200 million annually. Oversight of the size and priorities of these programs could be provided by a standing committee within the National Academy of Sciences.

The need to identify and try to prevent adverse health impacts of climate change has risen to the forefront of climate change policy debates and become a top priority of the public health community. Given the observed and projected changes in climate and weather patterns, their current and anticipated health impacts, and the significant degree of regulatory discussion underway in the U.S. government, it is reasonable to determine the extent of federal investment in research to understand, avoid, prepare for, and respond to the human health impacts of climate change in the United States.

Future climate change is projected to exacerbate various current health problems, including heat-related mortality, diarrheal diseases, and diseases associated with exposure to ozone and aeroallergens. Demographic trends and geophysical and socioeconomic factors could increase overall vulnerability. Despite these risks, extramural federal funding of climate change and health research is estimated to be < $3 million per year.

In this commentary we summarize the health risks of climate change in the United States and examine the extent of federal funding devoted to understanding, avoiding, preparing for, and responding to the human health risks of climate change.

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