Climate Change and Health

Report to the Twenty-Eight Legislature:

2015 Preliminary Report and Recommendations from the Hawaiʻi Climate Change & Health Working Group

Executive Summary

Hawaiʻi has addressed climate change on its State policy agenda for several years via initiatives such as Hawai’i State Green Growth (HGG) and Aloha Plus Challenge Initiative, the Hawai’i Climate Adaption Initiative Act (Act 83), and Act 286, HRS 226-109.

The increasing global, national and regional scientific evidence relating to the connections between climate change and health requires more attention to and concern about this specific subset of climate change impacts. Climate change is not currently Hawaiʻi’s most visible public health issue, but it is increasingly clear that its influence and impacts will adversely affect the health and well-being of our residents and will make our health priority challenges increasingly more problematic to address.

The Hawaiʻi Climate Change & Health Working Group was initially convened in August of 2015 (HCR 108, SD1) to help the State consider and plan for the impacts of climate change on population-based human health and well-being and has developed some preliminary findings and recommendations for policymaker consideration. The Working Group intends to develop more specific climate change and health recommendations in
the coming months of 2016 as well.

Climate change, together with other natural and human-made health stressors, influences human health and disease in numerous ways. Some existing health threats will intensify and new health threats will emerge. Potential health-related impacts include; respiratory and cardiac problems, heat-related morbidity and mortality, cancer risks, mental health related impacts, vector, food and water borne diseases and nutritional/food and water security issues.

The Hawai’i Climate Change and Health Working Group recommends attention be given to the following three priority areas, with specific recommendations for each:

1. A major focus for health should be on comprehensive and coordinated adaptation strategies by Hawaiʻi’s public health system and related services, engaging scientists/researchers, planners, and policymakers to support our populations’ adaptation to changing environmental challenges and conditions.
2. The Hawai’i State Department of Health should have increased dedicated fiscal and personnel resources to lead efforts addressing development of climate change and health issues
3. Protections against both infectious and chronic climate-associated disease threats should be strengthened.