BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for June, 2019

Significant changes in the earth’s climate system which result in new weather patterns that may last tens to millions of years is referred to as Climate Change. The climate system receives energy from the sun as well as dissipates energy to the outer space in order to maintain the balance of incoming and outgoing energy. This balance of incoming and outgoing energy, and the passage of the energy through the climate system, determines earth’s energy budget. When the incoming energy is greater than the outgoing energy, earth’s energy budget is positive and the climate system is warming.  On the other hand, if more energy goes out of the climate system compared to that which comes in, then the energy budget becomes deficit or negative and earth experiences a cooling effect.

The climate system is made up of five interacting parts which include:

  • Atmosphere (air)
  • Hydrosphere (water)
  • Cryosphere (ice and permafrost)
  • Biosphere (living things)
  • Lithosphere (earth’s crust and upper mantle)

Climate change is widely recognized as one of the most urgent problems currently facing humanity, and the world at large. Fortunately, humans have the knowledge, technologies, and resources to solve this problem, in ways that support the most vulnerable nations and communities. We must take care of the earth’s atmosphere which is part of a global system that keeps the temperature of the universe within a habitable range. Sadly, we have not kept up with this mandate due to industrialization.

Since the advent of the industrial revolution, humans and their activities have continued to alter the composition of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. The resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) builds up in the atmosphere, creating the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect then traps energy from the sun and raises the temperature of the earth causing a positive change in the climate. An example of greenhouse gases is methane released mainly by natural gas production and nitrous oxide from nitrogen-based fertilizers. Greenhouse gases occur naturally and are essential to the survival of living things because they keep some of the sun’s warmth from reflecting back into space making the earth habitable. However, human activities including industrialization, deforestation and large scale agriculture, have increased the quantities of these atmospheric greenhouse gases to record levels not seen in three million years and which threaten the existence of life. As populations, economies and standards of living grow the cumulative level of greenhouse gas emissions increases.

Currently, the wide-ranging impacts of climate change are felt globally: various studies have reported an increase in annual temperature worldwide which is predicted to further increase by the year 2050. The ecosystem is changing and if nothing is done, many species may go extinct because their habitats are changing faster than they can adapt.

We can choose a future that prevents the worst impacts of climate change, by controlling our population as well as making a rapid transition from fossil to renewable energy sources which is very affordable.

Global warming is the continuing rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system. It is a consequence of climate change and is reflected by temperature measurements and its numerous resulting effects. Global warming has been happening for a long time, however, increased intensity of its effects was observed in the 1900s. Therefore, the term is used mainly to describe the observed and ongoing increase in average air and ocean temperatures since 1900 caused predominantly by the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the modern industrial economy. Although global warming and climate change are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. Global warming is a result of climate change, it is one of the many effect of changes in the climate system. On the other hand, climate change is much broader and encompasses both global warming and its effects including changes to precipitation and other environmental impacts that differ by geographic region. The effects and impacts of global warming are broad and include the following

  • Rising sea levels
  • Regional changes in precipitation
  • Frequent extreme weather events such as heat waves and wild fires
  • Expansion of deserts
  • Destruction of infrastructure and food insecurity
  • Water pollution
  • Reduced water quality
  • Extinction of some ecosystems and species

As the climate becomes warmer, the nature of global rainfall, evaporation, snow, stream flow and other factors that affect water supply and quality change. Surface temperature increases are highest in the Arctic, with the continuous retreat of glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice. Generally, increase in temperature results in more rain and snowfall for some regions while it causes droughts and wildfires in other regions.

Resulting effects of global warming such as increased variability in weather patterns, heat waves, heavy precipitation events, flooding, droughts, intense storms, sea level rise, and air pollution negatively affect public and global health. The specific health effects vary across geographic regions, age, economic resources and populations. More so, global warming may intensify already existing health problems in addition to causing new health issues.

In general, extreme heat events remain a cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. Public health is affected by disruptions of physical, biological, and ecological systems. The health effects of these disruptions may include increased respiratory, kidney and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events such as heat waves and heat stroke, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.

A balanced diet is a healthy diet that contains all the necessary food nutrients in their right proportions or recommended quantities. Eating a healthy diet daily and throughout one’s life helps prevent different forms of malnutrition as well as a wide range of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and conditions. The exact composition of a balanced and healthy diet varies based on specific individual characteristics such as age, gender, lifestyle, level of physical activity, cultural context, locally available foods and dietary customs; however, the basic principles of what constitutes a healthy diet remain the same. Basically, a balanced diet includes the six classes of food: carbohydrates, protein, fats and oil, fruits and vegetables, minerals, vitamins and water.

The benefits of a balanced diet are broad and far reaching. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important things that protect health. In fact, up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy diet and physically activity. A healthy diet helps lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by:

  • Improving cholesterol levels
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Maintaining body weight
  • Controlling blood sugar
  • Helping the body function properly

For infants and young children, a balanced diet provides optimal nutrition which fosters healthy growth and improves cognitive development especially in the first two years of life. It also reduces the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing NCDs later in life. For adults, eating a balanced diet which contains most or all of the classes of food is essential to remaining healthy. Specifically, eating at least 400g or five portions of fruits and vegetables daily reduces the risk of NCDs and helps to ensure an adequate daily intake of dietary fiber. Additionally, reducing the amount of total fat intake helps to prevent unhealthy weight gain in the adult population while limiting salt intake to the recommended level of less than 5g per day could prevent up to 1.7 million deaths annually. More so, minimizing the intake of free sugars in both adults and children also provide additional health benefits by preventing dental caries (tooth decay), cardiovascular diseases and obesity.

Despite the benefits and established guidelines of healthy eating as well as the negative health effects associated with not eating balanced diets, many people still consume foods high in energy, fats, free sugars and sodium. This is as a result of increased production and availability of processed foods, rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles which have resulted in a shift in dietary patterns. People no longer eat enough foods beneficial to health including fruits, vegetables and other dietary fiber such as whole grains.

Diet is influenced by personal, social and economic factors that interact in a complex fashion. These factors include income, cost, availability, palatability, individual preferences, personal beliefs, culture and geographical aspects including climate change. As a consequence, promoting a healthy and balanced diet or food environment requires multiple sectors and stakeholders, including government, private sectors and the public in general.

Nutrition can be defined as the science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food as well as their relationship to the maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease in an organism. It encompasses various stages of food intake including absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion. The major sources of nutrients include foods, drinks, fruits, vegetables and multivitamin capsules. To ensure the preservation and retention of nutrients, foods must be prepared and stored using methods that prevent nutrients from oxidation, and that reduces risk of foodborne illnesses.

The lack of nutrients in humans is called under-nutrition or malnutrition and may result in deficiency-related diseases such as blindness, anemia, scurvy, preterm birth, stillbirth and cretinism. On the other hand, having some nutrients in excess may cause health-threatening conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and chronic systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

The importance of good nutrition is obvious and cannot be overemphasized. The association between good nutrition and healthy weight, reduced chronic disease risk, and overall health is also too important to be ignored. Good nutrition is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle and food choices affect mood and health. In combination with physical activity, good nutrition helps in the maintenance of a healthy weight, decreases the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer and promotes overall health. One of the major impacts of poor nutrition is obesity; for example, about one-third of adults (33.8%) in the United States are obese and approximately 17%- about 12.5 million children and adolescents between the ages of 2 to 9 years are also obese. Irrespective of one’s body mass index, poor nutrition is associated with major health risks that can lead to morbidity or mortality. Some associated diseases include heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.

The great news is, these health problems and diseases are mostly preventable by making wise food choices. It remains important to instill healthy eating habits in children who more often than not carry these habits into adulthood- teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will more likely help them stay healthy throughout their life. Conclusively, eating healthy balanced diets, which is the only source of good nutrition gives the body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, active, and strong.