How curbing climate change can help stop the next viral pandemic

Tanya Albert Henry , Contributing News Writer

Nearly 75% of emerging infectious diseases are now zoonotic—think Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and most recently SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Continued climate change is expected to exacerbate transmission in environments shared among plants, humans and animals. 

Membership Moves Medicine™

  • Free access to JAMA Network™ and CME
  • Save hundreds on insurance
  • Fight for physicians and patient rights

A new approach called “One Health” is promoting national and international collaborative responses to mitigate actions that increase human to animal-transmission risks.

The February issue of AMA Journal of Ethics® (@JournalofEthics) features numerous perspectives on the nature and scope of the collective responses to key changes spurred by climate change’s impact on health ecology and germ transmission. Authors explore in detail the social, cultural and ethical complexities involved.

The February issue of AMA Journal of Ethics includes the following articles:

  1. Why Climate Literacy Is Health Literacy

    1. The health consequences of global warming are severe and will get worse, yet literacy about these problems is poor.
  2. Five Things Clinicians Need to Know About Zoonotic Viral Spillover and Spillback

    1. Since the 1990s, multiple infectious diseases have “spilled over” from nonhuman animals to infect humans and cause significant global morbidity and mortality.
  3. AMA Code of Medical Ethics’ Opinions Related to Health Ecology and Disease Transmission

    1. Key values outlined in AMA Code facilitate understanding of complex relationships among humans, nonhuman animals and our ecosystem.
  4. Top Five Things Health Professions Students Should Know About Ecology and Waste Management

    1. Organizations’ architecture and communities’ waste-stream designs situate how well industrial hygiene practices support or undermine individuals’ and communities’ pathogenic vulnerability.

In the journal’s February “Ethics Talk” podcast, Joost van Herten, PhD, a senior policy officer and veterinarian at the Royal Veterinary Association in the Netherlands, discusses how comparing different conceptions of health can help us interrogate just exactly what a One Health approach to health offers and what it doesn’t.

The February issue also features 10 author-interview podcasts. Listen to previous episodes of the podcast, “Ethics Talk,” or subscribe in iTunes or other services.

Also, CME modules drawn from this month’s issue are collected at the AMA Ed Hub™ AMA Journal of Ethics webpage.

The journal’s editorial focus is on commentaries and articles that offer practical advice and insights for medical students and physicians. Submit a manuscript for publication. The journal also invites original photographs, graphics, cartoons, drawings and paintings that explore the ethical dimensions of health or health care.

The next issue of the journal will focus on psychiatric inpatient environmental architecture. Sign up to receive email alerts when new issues are published.