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Public Health Ethics. 2015 Jul;8(2):196-208.

Caribbean Heat Threatens Health, Well-being and the Future of Humanity.

Author information

1
St George's University School of Medicine and Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF).
2
Old Dominion University, Center for Global Health, Health Sciences and Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF).

Abstract

Climate change has substantial impacts on public health and safety, disease risks and the provision of health care, with the poor being particularly disadvantaged. Management of the associated health risks and changing health service requirements requires adequate responses at local levels. Health-care providers are central to these responses. While climate change raises ethical questions about its causes, impacts and social justice, medicine and bioethics typically focus on individual patients and research participants rather than these broader issues. We broaden this focus by examining awareness among health-care providers in the Caribbean region, where geographic and socioeconomic features pose particular vulnerabilities to climate change. In focus groups, Caribbean providers described rises in mosquito-borne, flood-related, heat-related, respiratory and mental illnesses, and attributed these to local impacts of climate change. Their discussions showed that the significance of these impacts differs in different Caribbean nations, raising policy and social justice questions. Bioethics and public health ethics are situated to frame, inform and initiate public and policy dialog about values and scientific evidence associated with climate change. We urge readers to initiate such dialog within their own institutions about the context-dependent nature of the burdens of climate change, and values and policies that permit it to worsen.

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