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Benevolenza, M. A., & DeRigne, L. A. (2019). The impact of climate change and natural disasters on vulnerable populations: A systematic review of literature.
Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment
Climate change is acknowledged as being a crucial determinant of public health. The United States is experiencing an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters as a result of climate change activity, influencing the ways federal, state, and local governments are addressing the growing issue. Individuals who are vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather, namely the poor, the elderly/disabled, children, prisoners, and substance abusers have experienced heightened levels of mental, emotional, and bodily stress due to natural disaster exposure. Researchers from a variety of disciplines, public health, social science, and environmental studies, in particular, are examining how natural disasters are impacting mental and physical health functioning while noting the demographic factors leaving certain groups more susceptible to harm. A systematic literature review was conducted on the past 12 years of research that examined natural disaster-related experiences and psychological and physiological health outcomes on populations who are more vulnerable to adverse weather impacts. It was found that the mental and physical health of marginalized populations during and after a natural disaster were elevated and/or exacerbated by circumstances pertaining to the weather event and the lack of disaster-response actions. It was also found that fostering social capital is a way to combat stressors in disadvantaged communities. It is imperative that clinicians and policy makers confront the issue of climate change and natural disasters, developing relief efforts and preventative measures to secure the well-being of underserved groups who may not have many resources at their disposal.
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Bloetscher, F., Polsky, C., Bolter, K., Mitsova, D., Garces, K., King, R., et al. (2016). Assessing Potential Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Public Health and Vulnerable Populations in Southeast Florida and Providing a Framework to Improve Outcomes.
In recent years, ongoing efforts by a multitude of universities, local governments, federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been focused on sea-level rise (SLR) adaptation in Florida. However, within these efforts, there has been very little attention given to the potential impacts of sea-level rise on human health. The intent of this project is to identify populations in Southeast Florida that are most vulnerable to sea-level rise from a topographic perspective, determine how vulnerable these population are from a socio-economic perspective, identify potential health impacts, develop adaptation strategies designed to assist these communities, and produce an outreach effort that can be shared with other coastal communities. The location of socially-vulnerable and health-vulnerable populations are correlated, but at present they are not generally in the geographically-vulnerable areas. Projections indicate that they will become at risk in the future but the lack of data on emerging diseases makes public health assessments difficult. We propose a redefinition of "who is vulnerable?" to include health indicators and hard infrastructure solutions for flood and property protection. These tools can be used to help protect water resources from the impacts of climate change, which would, in turn, protect public health via drinking water supplies, and efforts to address social issues.
sea level rise
vector- and waterborne diseases
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