From the Pump Handle to the Fire Hose: Applying Health Sciences to Understanding the Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health (Core Science Lecture)

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 4:00 PM
228AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
John Balbus, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD

Since John Snow removed the handle from London's Broad Street Pump in 1854 based on his analysis of the spatial distribution of cholera cases in Soho, London, the use of health data to inform public health actions has evolved in complexity and significance. And data used for health studies has evolved from “shoe leather” surveys and clipboards to massive online datasets. But many of the basic principles of epidemiology, like identifying and mitigating bias and confounding, still enable public health scientists to make sense of complex data and take actions to protect public health.

Estimating and understanding the health implications of climate change relies to a great extent on the basic science of epidemiology and its application in the discipline of health risk analysis. This presentation will describe the foundational principles and approaches of epidemiology as they pertain to examples from health studies related to climate change. It will also describe the principles and framework of health risk assessment and how those have been adapted to assessing the health risks of climate change. Lastly, the presentation will discuss ongoing challenges and limitations of health data and epidemiology in addressing the public health challenges of climate change.