(Photo: Montara Beach, California)
Earth Day 2021
Protecting Our Planet and Our Health
By: Allison Kozicharow; Edited by Jessie Crowdy
The COVID-19 pandemic cruelly demonstrates the vulnerability of human life and how our actions can impact the health of others. Earth Day gives us the opportunity to think about how the health of people and animals is closely linked with the changing climate and intensifying environmental conditions.
Exactly how do climate change and the environment relate to our health?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, climate change is threatening human and animal health by increasing the following:
- Air pollution → diminished human lung function and increased asthma
- Allergens → higher pollen count and longer pollen seasons
- Diseases carried by vectors → diseases caused by ticks, mosquitoes, etc.
- Food and waterborne diarrheal disease → salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, etc.
- Food insecurity → decreased crop, livestock and fish production; starvation
- Mental health and stress-related disorders → reactions to events such as weather disasters
- Floods → extreme precipitation events and their aftermath
- Drought and water scarcity → unclean water, cholera, diarrhea
- Temperature extremes → heat strokes; cardiovascular, respiratory and cerebrovascular disease
- Wildfire frequency → vulnerability of forests, loss of habitat
Earth Day 2021 reminds us that the environment is a system, where each element affects other elements. Wildfires, for instance, create air pollution; air pollution impacts health directly and it also influences temperature; temperature extremes affect crops and the food supply; food supply shortages cause illness and starvation which, in turn, inspire migration. It is a relentless cycle of interrelated elements. These relationships form an extraordinarily complex system that appears to be approaching a critical point.
When we look at health and the environment in the same frame, scientists refer to this as One Health — the intersection of human, animal and environmental health—all as part of one interdependent system.
For this Earth Day, we should think about these interrelationships. We should recognize that human, animal and environmental health are part of the same system, and that to improve our own health, we must improve the health of the environment on which all life depends.
April Health Observances
By Meghan Spirito
Earth Day — April 22
Earth Day focuses on raising awareness of the growing movement that supports environmental protection. Earth Day occurs annually on April 22 and focuses on three programs: education and science, personal and civic action and conservation and restoration. To learn more, visit the official Earth Day website.
World Immunization Week and National Infant Immunization Week — April 24–April 30
World Immunization Week focuses on promoting the use of vaccines to protect everyone against diseases. National Infant Immunization Week raises awareness about protecting children aged two and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccine immunizations save millions of lives every year, however there are still almost 20 million children who do not get their scheduled vaccines. This year is focusing on the theme of, “Vaccines bring us closer,” to increase trust and confidence in vaccines as well as increasing availability. Learn more here: World Immunization Week and National Infant Immunization Week. WiRED offers two immunity modules, the immune system and the immune system for children to further explain how vaccines positively impact the immune system as well as general immune system knowledge.
National Sexually Transmitted Infections Awareness Month (STIs)
STI Awareness Month raises awareness and education about infections that occur from unprotected sexual contact or during pregnancy and childbirth. The majority of STIs have no symptoms and can be prevented or treated if sexually active individuals take steps such as talking to their partners, getting tested, and having safe sex practices. WiRED offers modules about STI awareness and prevention linked here, which are also available in Spanish.
World Malaria Day — April 25
World Malaria Day is an international day that recognizes the global efforts to control malaria. While the fight against malaria has saved millions of lives, half of the world is still vulnerable to this preventable and treatable disease. This year’s aim is to highlight the successes of WHO’s zero malaria goal and inspire nations that have the potential to be disease free. The End Malaria website goes further in depth about World Malaria Day and zero malaria goals. WiRED offers two malaria modules, one that provides detailed and updated information for healthcare professionals and one for general audiences that covers areas such as prevention, transmission and treatment.