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September 3, 2022
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Extreme heat demands large and small steps to protect health. Roberto Sorin / unsplash.

3 Small but Big Impacts of Climate Change

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer has been set to broil.
Blast furnace heat has scorched Europe, China, the western US, and others, sapping reservoirs, drying rivers, withering crops, and torching forests. Those images and the attendant human suffering make it easy to welcome fall, but I’m still thinking about the lingering effects of brutal heat on the human body. 3 stories that Global Health NOW shared in August set me thinking:
  • First: More time spent in high temperatures meant increased risk of malnutrition for children in West AfricaFor every 100 hours of exposure to a temperature above 95 degrees F, the stunting rate increased by 5.9%—frightening news for low-income countries most affected by a warming world.
  • Second: For those with coronary heart disease, certain medications backfired during hot weather events. On the hottest days, use of antiplatelet medication such as aspirin was linked to a 63% increase in heart attack risk; beta-blockers with a 65% increase, according to Yale School of Public Health researchers. People taking both drugs had a 75% higher risk.
  • Third: Climate change is heating up the ever-present war between pathogens and people as extreme weather exacerbates hundreds of infectious diseases. Researchers from universities in Hawaii and Wisconsin found that 218 out of 375 known human infectious diseases—58%—have been worsened by heat waves, flooding, drought, and other hazards stemming from climate change.
Takeaways: We know extreme heat and other consequences of climate change will only get worse in the coming years. That means 2 challenges: 
  • Avoid paralysis and thinking that the problem is too big to deal with.
  • Don’t just focus on the big picture. Climate change is bringing not only planetary-scale impacts; it has huge impacts on individual human health. Those need attention, too.

Responding to the pathogenic research above, Emory University infectious disease specialist Carlos del Rio said, “Those of us in infectious diseases and microbiology need to make climate change one of our priorities.”
I’d expand that notion: Those of us who are human beings need to make climate change a priority. For reasons large and small.


Articles that Caught My Eye in August

He discovered the origin of the monkeypox outbreak — and tried to warn the world – NPR Goats and Soda
Almost half of cancer deaths globally are attributable to preventable risk factors, new study suggests – CNN
Pakistan floods: One third of country is under water – minister - BBC
Ukraine health crisis worsens as medics work amid shelling, WHO says – Reuters
Walensky, Citing Botched Pandemic Response, Calls for C.D.C. Reorganization – The New York Times
US data reveals racial gaps in monkeypox vaccinations – The AP

Don't Miss This Must-Read, Big Think Piece 

How not to become a global health expert – Chiamaka Precious Ojiako for PLOS Global Public Health Global Health


And Now Some Good News

We make a special effort to bring you the big stories each month, but we also feel a real need to resurface the good news stories. So here are my rays of light from August.
Hearing aids will now be within reach of millions more Americans, thanks to an FDA ruling that allows adults to buy hearing aids over the counter at pharmacies or online—avoiding the expense of prescriptions and special fittings.
Scotland is the first country in the world to require that schools and other public buildings provide free period products, as new legislation came into effect on August 15.
Sex workers and adult entertainers, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ+, are taking on monkeypox. They are organizing vaccine drives, developing safety protocols, using social media to share information and experiences, and pushing for government agencies to provide more resources and dispel misinformation.
Equity in scientific article authorship is on the upswing. The NIH Fogarty International Center examined its own track record with nearly 3,500 publications it funds, and found sub-Saharan Africa-affiliated authors increased between 2008 and 2020 from 47% to 63% for SSA-affiliated first authors and from 28% to 47% for last authors.


A woman at Akinlapa oil farm filters the fresh palm fruits. Abiodun Jamiu

The Unrealized Potential of Red Palm Oil

OSOGBO, NIGERIA—When people think of palm oil, what most likely comes to mind is an odorless, colorless product ubiquitous in grocery stores across the globe. Its production is also notorious for spurring deforestation and exploitative labor practices.
But the women on small-hold palm oil farms in Southwest Nigeria are creating a very different product—unrefined red palm oil (RPO)—and making a good living.    
“I have achieved a lot from this business,” says 45-year-old Saudat Olaniyan, who earns almost double the Nigerian minimum wage producing RPO, a Nigerian diet staple that is also a rich source of vitamin A.
In a country where 28% of children are vitamin A-deficient, experts and farmers say more can be done with this homegrown source of the nutrient.
Nigerian reporter Abiodun Jamiu provides some answers in this latest piece for GHN's Local Reporting Initiative, supported by our loyal readers.

And Finally...

A “Bromantic” Dolphin Boy Band

Selecting my fave Friday Diversion from August was easy: The “bromantic” dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia who have formed their own boy band. The pods of male dolphins perform “synchronised movements and displays while singing in unison to attract females.” How cool is that?
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That’s the latest news and diversions from GHN. What was a hit or a miss in this month’s update? Share your thoughts and ideas with me. 

All best,

Issue No. M-20

Global Health NOW is an initiative of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Contributors include Brian W. Simpson, MPH, Dayna Kerecman Myers, Annalies Winny, Morgan Coulson, Melissa Hartman, and Jackie Powder. Write us:, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GHN_News.

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