141st APHA Annual Meeting

In This section

Health inequities related to occupational health impacts of climate change

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 2:35 PM - 2:50 PM

David H. Wegman, MD, MSOH , Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
Christer Hogstedt, MD, PhD , Unit of Occupational Medicine, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
Tord Kjellstrom, MD, PhD , Centre for Global Health Research, Umea University, Mapua, New Zealand
Rebekah Lucas, PhD , Centre for Global Health Research, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health, Umea University, Umea, Sweden
Background: Excessive heat exposure in workplaces is a well known occupational health hazard. In the USA workplace heat deaths occur primarily among immigrant agricultural workers. Heat waves in Europe and regular heat conditions in tropical countries also cause heat stroke among manual workers. Climate change will make this situation worse, challenging health equity. A recent global economic analysis predicted that the greatest impact on labor productivity losses would result from increasing heat exposure.

Methodology: Global modeling data on temperature and humidity were used to estimate the monthly heat stress WBGT index at different time points during typical days currently and in the future (2030 and 2050). Available exposure-response relationships for heat impacts on work capacity at different levels of work metabolic rate were then used to calculate the predicted loss of work capacity. The losses in work capacity for workers in light jobs and in heavy jobs were compared to establish an occupational heat inequity index (OHII).

Results: The OHII predicts current occupational health challenges from workplace heat in the tropical parts of the world. For example, in South-East Asia workers in heavy labor lose twice as much work capacity due to workplace heat as the workers in lighter jobs. This inequity is estimated to double by 2050. OHII predictions for the different tropical regions will be presented.

Conclusions: Occupational health needs to be closely analyzed in relation to climate change, and an important effect is loss of work capacity, which has a major impact on health and social equity.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
List the major occupational groups most impacted by climate change Describe the occupational health inequity index (OHII) Discuss predicted health inequity across tropical regions due to climate change

Keywords: Health Disparities, Climate Change

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have contributed to multiple government funded grants that have focused on physiological mechanisms and health in association to environmental stressors. I a human-based integrative physiologist, with experience in examining both healthy and diseased states. My current research interests included investigating the effects of climate change on the health and well-being of working populations in tropical countries.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.