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Dr Eva Parker: Climate Change Has Been Impacting Skin Diseases for Years

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Many people often don’t connect the dots between climate change and its impact on skin health, but these effects have been happening for years, said Eva R. Parker, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

This content was produced independently by The American Journal of Managed Care® and is not endorsed by the American Academy of Dermatology.

Many people often don’t connect the dots between climate change and its impact on skin health, but these effects have been happening for years, said Eva R. Parker, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and president of the Nashville Dermatologic Society.

Parker presented on the impacts of climate change and health and health care during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Transcript

When you look at climate change's impact on health, what's included in it?

I think when we think about climate change, it's a very broad topic. In addition to global warming, we're also looking at impacts from increasing intensity and severity of extreme weather events, as well as air pollution. I would say that air pollution is perhaps tangential to climate change, but understand that they have the same root cause, which is burning fossil fuels. Combustion of fossil fuels leads to not only increased greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, but many non-greenhouse gas air pollutants like particulate matter and polycyclic, aromatic hydrocarbons, which are very damaging to our health.

Then when we think about how those specific impacts affect health, it's very broad. Literally, every organ system is involved. Not only the skin, but the brain, the heart, the lungs, the [gastrointestinal tract], the kidneys, and so it's a really broad range of effects.

Do people—patients, providers, policy makers—understand the full impact climate change has on the skin?

No, I don't think they really do. I think it's something that we often have to connect the dots for our patients, and honestly, for other physicians, as well as people in hospital administration, and more broadly, within research. It's not necessarily intuitive, and I think that many impacts have been happening for years, right in front of our eyes, but people have not necessarily made the connection between climate change and those health impacts.

What else do you want people to know about the impact of climate change on health?

I would love to just say that climate change is such a critical issue. It really is a public health emergency. And it's something that's going to continue to impact the health of every human being. And so, I just make a plea that people really do begin to invest time and effort into understanding climate change, understanding its impacts on skin disease specifically, and making efforts to mitigate the effects, as well as attention to how we can properly adapt to these effects because they're coming in some form or another.

Lastly, we need more research dollars and more research efforts into looking at how skin disease is impacted by climate change. And all of that needs to have a just focus so that we are sure that we are minimizing disparities and disproportionate impacts in more vulnerable populations.

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