Climate Change: HHS Could Take Further Steps to Enhance Understanding of Public Health Risks

Government Accountability Office

Why GAO Did This Study
The World Health Organization projects climate change will adversely affect health significantly over the next several decades. Some health effects of climate change are already being felt in the United States, according to assessments by the National Research Council, USGCRP, and others. Since the federal government is the nation’s largest purchaser of health care services, federal health care expenditures could increase in future years due to climate-related impacts.
GAO was asked to review federal efforts to increase public health system preparedness for climate change. This report addresses (1) federal activities to enhance understanding about the risks climate change poses to public health, (2) federal resources used by selected states and localities to address these risks, and (3) challenges states and localities face and actions federal agencies could take to mitigate them.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that HHS direct CDC to develop a plan describing when it will be able to issue climate change communications guidance to state and local health departments. CDC generally agreed with the recommendation, stating that it will issue guidance once HHS’s climate change communication and outreach strategy is final.


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