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Climate Change Health Impact Assessment in the South Florida Region: Mental Health and Stress-Relate

Some of the least considered but most challenging consequences of sea level rise and climate change in general are projected impacts on public health.

The Florida Public Health Institute, with funding from Broward County and support from Urban Health Solutions, issued a report on March 27, 2014 entitled, "Minimizing the Health Effects of Climate Change in the South Florida Region: A Health Impact Assessment."

This excellent and detailed analysis surveys the many climate related health issues facing Southeast Florida as seas rise and other climate changes, including increasing temperatures, take place. One purpose of the report is to facilitate development of relevant "climate change related policies in Southeast Florida."

One area that particularly interests me is the section on "Mental Health and Stress-Related Disorders." According to the authors, "Extreme weather events like flooding that cause immediate health effects on affected populations through displacement and disruptions in access to resources and social networks can cause mental health issues."

The study points out that increases in violence, abuse, murders and suicide can result from such stressors.

It is not unreasonable to include financial pressures in the list of reasons why mental health is a climate change concern. People who may lose their properties over the coming decades and face financial hardships due to sea level rise (SLR) need to have plans to avoid stress related disorders.

One way to accomplish such a goal to avoid depression and post-traumatic stress disorder is to provide sea level rise mental health counselling in adaptation areas as well as the creation of broader financial strategies (for property owners and residents) to prepare for changing coast lines and communities.

According to the report, "...the potential mental health effects from the displacement of populations living along Southeast Florida's densely populated coastal areas and other inland areas that will likely be affected by SLR could cause serious stress and other mental health issues."

The Health Impact Assessment covers a broad array of topics aside from mental health, including the effects of climate change and SLR on asthma, respiratory allergies, airway diseases, foodbourne diseases, nutrition, vectorborne and zoonotic diseases and waterbourne diseases. The study includes a series of recommendations for the protection of public health.

The full report can be viewed here.

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