Minnesotans will suffer from more asthma, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and such bug-borne diseases as West Nile virus and Lyme disease as climate change takes hold across the Upper Midwest, according to a new report from the Minnesota Health Department.
It’s the latest in a series of “vulnerability assessments” that Gov. Mark Dayton ordered from his Cabinet to prepare Minnesota for the inevitable. The 98-page Minnesota Climate and Health Profile Report says that health risks are especially high for people who lack “climate resilience” due to age, income, residence or numerous other vulnerability factors that influence whether an individual can thrive in a changing environment.
The department’s Climate and Health Program established six goals outlined in a strategic plan for the Health Department. These goals will guide priorities and funding decisions for activities to minimize climate change effects on the health of all Minnesotans.
Some of the goals include:
• Research, track and report on the public health effects of climate change.
• Enhance planning for emergency and disaster response and recovery to effectively protect the public’s health against climate change-related disasters.
• Increase the public health system’s capacity to respond and adapt to the public health impacts of climate change.
“Minnesota has gotten warmer, and precipitation patterns have become more unpredictable,” the report concluded. “According to climate projections for the state, these trends are likely to continue with wide-ranging repercussions for the health and well-being of the population.”
The next steps include addressing data and research gaps to reach out to vulnerable populations. For example, limited data exists to help characterize all effects from flooding on Minnesotans, including financial, physical and emotional influences on health and well-being.
The report also foresees officials teaming up with sectors and disciplines that may be relatively new to public health, and borrowing from other states’ and municipalities’ successes.
“Minnesota public health professionals can learn from these experiences while drawing on resources and partnerships here in the state to select the most effective interventions for sustaining health,” the report said.