Health journalism bridges climate change, daily news cycle

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Science journalists have struggled to reconcile the undeniable long-term relevance of climate change reporting with the lack of day-to-day immediacy inherent in such a gradual event. Writing in the Yale Forum, Lisa Palmer makes a persuasive case that the work of health journalists will lead the way in creating an immediate, personal link between readers and the warming globe they live on.


Photo by Buzz Hoffman via Flickr

More than anything else, the link between health and climate promises to transform abstract observations into personal actions and reactions as opinion among health professionals reaches critical mass.

In May 2009, the health community took an especially firm position on climate change when a joint commission led by the British medical journal The Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health published findings that climate change poses the biggest public health threat of this century. The report outlined “major threats” to global health involving disease, water and food security, and extreme weather events, and added a cautionary statement: “Although vector-borne diseases will expand their reach and death tolls, the indirect effects of climate change on water, food security, and extreme climatic events are likely to have the biggest effect on global health.”

Reporters looking for a deeper look on health and climate would do well to review Linda Marsa’s December, 2010, cover story in Discover, which she is now expanding into a book. “Climate change is going to be the biggest science story for the rest of my career,” Marsa told Palmer. For more on how Marsa’s Discover story came together, AHCJ members can see this background questionnaire in which she explains her sourcing and gives advice to those who aspire to report on the intersection of health and climate.

Related tip sheets and resources for AHCJ members

1 thought on “Health journalism bridges climate change, daily news cycle

  1. Linda Marsa

    One more thing. The issue of environmental justice is inextricably linked to climate change and the effects it will have on health because the poor, minorities, women and other disenfranchised groups will be disproportionately affected by climate change and because they have little or no resources to insulate themselves from the effects of extreme weather, heat waves, etc..

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