National Academy of Medicine
Commentary

Climate Change Poses Serious Risks to U.S. Health Care System

By Donna E. Shalala, Alfred Sommer
July 08, 2014

During July 1995, Chicago was gripped by a heat wave that still ranks as one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

Estimates vary, but more than 700 people, many of them elderly and isolated, may have died as a result of the heat, which soared as high as 106 degrees.  The federal government dispatched refrigerator trucks to store the deceased, hospitals shut down emergency rooms (ERs) for lack of space, roads buckled from the heat, and the Chicago Fire Department had to hose down children who were overcome by dehydration.

Now, imagine if we experienced multiple Chicago heat waves every summer, in cities all across the country. That is the direction we are headed unless we change course and take strong, decisive action to curb climate change.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this Perspective are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The Perspective is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It has not been subjected to the review procedures of, nor is it a report of, the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.