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The World in Medicine
May 21, 2008

Climate Change

JAMA. 2008;299(19):2267. doi:10.1001/jama.299.19.2267-b

Rising temperatures and the effects of extreme weather events pose threats to human health, especially that of the world's poor, warned World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan, MD. Her remarks last month marked the agency's World Health Day, which designated climate change as its theme (http://www.who.int/world-health-day/en/index.html).

“Rising temperatures and more frequent droughts and floods can compromise food security, leading to increases in malnutrition, which is already responsible for 3.5 million deaths each year,” noted Chan. Flooding will increase the burden of diarrheal diseases, which currently cause about 1.8 million deaths each year. In addition, changing temperatures and patterns of rainfall are expected to alter the geographical distribution of insect vectors that spread infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue, she noted.