Climate-related Stresses on Human Health in a Remote and Rural Region of Ontario, Canada

Title: Climate-related Stresses on Human Health in a Remote and Rural Region of Ontario, Canada
Authors: Clarke, Kaila-Lea
Date: 2012
Abstract: This thesis examines the susceptibility of human health to climate-related stresses in the rural municipality of Addington Highlands, Ontario. Human health is sensitive to climatic variations and change, and public health systems play a role in managing climate-related risks. Canada is generally deemed to have considerable capacity to adapt to vulnerabilities associated with climate change, yet there is variability among communities in their exposure and ability to manage health risks. This thesis examines the health-related vulnerability of the community of Addington Highlands. Drawing upon data gained from key informant interviews and newspaper articles, as well as other secondary data sources, the thesis documents climate-related health risks, outlines the programs and services available to deal with those risks, and assesses the capacity of the community to adapt to future climate conditions and risks. Conditions such as storms, heat stress and forest fires currently present health risks in the area, and they are expected to become more prevalent with climate change. The health risks of Lyme disease, West Nile virus and algal blooms are likely to increase in the future as the climate continues to change. Adaptation to these risks is evident in several of Addington Highlands public health and emergency management programs. The community’s adaptive capacity is strengthened by its social networks and institutional flexibility, but it is constrained by its aging population, limits to the availability and access to health care services, and challenges relating to the retention of service providers. An important strategy to assist adaptation to climate change risks to health is the promotion of public awareness, a strategy to which this research contributes. This thesis research serves to identify and better understand vulnerabilities, and help stimulate actions toward preparing Addington Highlands for possible future climate-related risks.
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