Extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common in the United States and around the world, from chronic, long-term events like droughts to acute, seasonal events like wildfires and floods. As these events continue to increase in frequency and severity, America’s healthcare infrastructure and its ability to deliver quality care will continue to be impacted in ways beyond its original limits.
Extreme weather events, while not new, challenge the physical and operational infrastructure that supports our healthcare system—and yet are often minimized and treated as local problems.
While the acute impacts of natural disasters—casualties, damaged infrastructure, disruptions to people’s daily lives, and negative impacts for businesses—are top of mind, extreme weather events also exacerbate chronic health conditions such as asthma, expand the range of infectious diseases, and have a negative impact on mental health. Over the long term, these events may also trigger persistent health risks that will develop long after the event occurred. Perhaps synthesizing and analyzing patient data with climate data will be the key that unlocks the answers on how our healthcare delivery system can prepare for and better serve our population as these changes take place.