Background: Despite considerable global attention to the issues of climate change, relatively little priority has been given to the likely effects on human health of current and future changes in the global climate. We identify three major societal determinants that influence the impact of climate change on human health, namely the application of scholarship and knowledge; economic and commercial considerations; and actions of governments and global agencies.
Discussion: The three major areas are each discussed in terms of the ways in which they facilitate and frustrate attempts to protect human health from the effects of climate change. Academia still pays very little attention to the effects of climate on health in poorer countries. Enterprise is starting to recognise that healthy commerce depends on healthy people, and so climate change presents long-term threats if it compromises health. Governments and international agencies are very active, but often face immovable vested interests in other sectors. Overall, there tends to be too little interaction between the three areas, and this means that potential synergies and co-benefits are not always realised.
Conclusion: More attention from academia, enterprise, and international agencies needs to be given to the potential threats the climate change presents to human health. However, there needs to also be much closer collaboration between all three areas in order to capitalise on possible synergies that can be achieved between them.