March 09, 2017
When Dornsife Professor Jerry Fagliano, PhD, MPH, chair of the Environmental and Occupational Health Department, stood to introduce Jonathan Patz’s Population Health Spotlight lecture earlier this month, his words provided context to the growing urgency of global climate issues.
Twenty years have passed since Patz had approached Fagliano, then the environment section program planner for the American Public Health Association, about doing a session on climate change at the APHA national conference. “At the time it seemed like a fringe idea – but he was persistent, so we planned a session,” said Fagliano, noting that APHA has declared 2017 the Year of Climate Change and Health – the theme for the organization’s upcoming annual meeting this fall.
Today Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, (@jonathanpatz) is director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For 15 years, Patz served as a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC)—the organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. He also co-chaired the health expert panel of the U.S. National Assessment on Climate Change, a report mandated by the U.S. Congress.
Patz’s message is clear: whether you call it climate change, climate damage or climate crisis – climate issues are, he said, “The greatest environmental public health challenge we face... and combating climate change might be the best opportunity we have to fight chronic disease.”