Climate change, urban health, and the promotion of health equity
A core principle of public health practice is the obligation to empower and protect the most vulnerable populations . This is closely related to the public health goal of eliminating health inequities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pointed out that climate change risks to health will be distributed unevenly, with some population groups being more likely to suffer the adverse consequences than others .
Urban populations, and especially socially and economically disadvantaged populations within urban areas, are likely to be especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change .
Public health practitioners have long acted based on a recognition that the health of the population is inextricably linked to protection of the environment and the long-term sustainability of human interactions with the environment. This interdependence of the natural and built environments is a foundational belief in public health . These connections are manifested most recently in the emerging planetary health movement. Integral to planetary health is the notion that interventions intended to protect the health of ecosystems will often result in positive impacts on population health, which may be viewed as “co-benefits” .
The recognition of health co-benefits is critical to public health efforts to prevent health impacts of climate change and is fundamental to the public health goal of eliminating health inequities.