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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Colorado: Health Care Workers Unprepared for Magnitude of Climate Change

A new article by Dr. Cecilia Sorenson and Dr. Ramon Garcia-Trabanino, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, highlights an epidemic of chronic kidney disease of unknown origin (CKDu) often seen in agricultural workers as just one of many diseases that will experience an increase in prevalence as a result of climate change.

The epidemic of CKDu among agricultural workers was initially observed in Central America, where it is already the second leading cause of death in Nicaragua and El Salvador. CKDu has since been noted to be spreading northward into Florida, California and Colorado. Evidence suggests that one cause of the disease is constant exposure to high temperatures. The article suggests that as temperatures rise across the globe, extreme heat and water shortages will result in more agricultural workers being at risk of developing CKDu.

In addition to CKDu, rising temperatures, increased humidity and droughts are likely to result in increases in other heat-related illnesses, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, adverse birth outcomes and poor mental health, all of which will apply pressure to hospital and medical services that are already overtaxed.

Drs. Sorenson and Garcia-Trabanino argue for the incorporation of environmental information into clinical and public health practice and developing early-warning systems that focus on vulnerable communities and climate-sensitive diseases.

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