Health impacts of climate change and health and social inequalities in the UK

This article examines how social and health inequalities shape the health impacts of climate change in the UK, and what the implications are for climate change adaptation and health care provision. The evidence generated by the other articles of the special issue were interpreted using social justice reasoning in light of additional literature, to draw out the key implications of health and social inequalities for health outcomes of climate change. Exposure to heat and cold, air pollution, pollen, food safety risks, disruptions to access to and functioning of health services and facilities, emerging infections and flooding are examined as the key impacts of climate change influencing health outcomes. Age, pre-existing medical conditions and social deprivation are found to be the key (but not only) factors that make people vulnerable and to experience more adverse health outcomes related to climate change impacts. In the future, climate change, aging population and decreasing public spending on health and social care may aggravate inequality of health outcomes related to climate change. Health education and public preparedness measures that take into account differential exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of different groups help address health and social inequalities to do with climate change. Adaptation strategies based on individual preparedness, action and behaviour change may aggravate health and social inequalities due to their selective uptake, unless they are coupled with broad public information campaigns and financial support for undertaking adaptive measures.

Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, 16, Dec 2017