Emerging Threats to Human Health from Global Environmental Change
Large-scale anthropogenic changes to the natural environment, including land-use change, climate change, and the deterioration of ecosystem services, are all accelerating. These changes are interacting to generate five major emerging public health threats that endanger the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people. These threats include increasing exposure to infectious disease, water scarcity, food scarcity, natural disasters, and population displacement. Taken together, they may represent the greatest public health challenge humanity has faced. There is an urgent need to improve our understanding of the dynamics of each of these threats: the complex interplay of factors that generate them, the characteristics of populations that make them particularly vulnerable, and the identification of which populations are at greatest risk from each of these threats. Such improved understanding would be the basis for stepped-up efforts at modeling and mapping global vulnerability to each of these threats. It would also help natural resource managers and policy makers to estimate the health impacts associated with their decisions and would allow aid organizations to target their resources more effectively.