GAO Report on Climate Change and Public Health

In November, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report summarizing its review of Federal efforts on climate change that calls for an increase in public health system preparedness for climate change, acknowledges data and research challenges, and recommends that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) develop climate change communications guidance for state and local health departments.

As part of GAO’s data gathering for the report, they interviewed state and local health officials.  When asked to identify challenges they face in addressing and planning for the risks of climate change to public health, state and local health officials identified challenges that GAO grouped into the three most frequently mentioned themes:

  • First: Officials said they face challenges communicating about the public health risks of climate change, due to limited public awareness and the complexity of the issue.
  • Second: Officials identified challenges identifying health risks of climate change due to gaps in research and difficulties using climate data.
  • Third: Officials told GAO about other challenges they face that federal action may not be able to address, such as having insufficient local data on health outcomes, because states may not collect or have access to such data, and having insufficient staff resources for these activities.

For more information and to read the report entitled, “Climate Change: HHS Could Take Further Steps to Enhance Understanding of Public Health Risks,” go to


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