Continuing Medical Education

Climate change: One of the greatest threats to public health in the 21st century

C Y Wright, M Norval


The impact of climate change on human health and well-being has already been observed. Direct effects such as those related to heat, cold, floods, storms and solar ultraviolet radiation have been documented. Some vector-, food- and water-borne diseases and other infectious diseases influenced by ecosystems are likely to increase in incidence. Respiratory health is affected by near-surface ozone exposures, episodes of acute air pollution, and aero-allergens. Indirect health impacts also exist. For example, changes in agricultural production, and loss of crop yield and the nutritional value of food have detrimental effects on nutrition. Increasing ambient temperatures can lead to loss of work capacity and occupational health concerns. The impact on mental health, mass migration, conflict and violence associated with changes in climate should not be underestimated.  


Authors' affiliations

C Y Wright, Climate Studies, Modelling and Environmental Health Research Group, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, and Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

M Norval, Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Edinburgh, UK

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Climate change

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(8):578. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.8606

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-06-25
Date published: 2014-07-09

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