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Balbus Spreads the NIEHS Message on Climate Change

By Eddy Ball
June 2010

John Balbus, M.D.
Balbus, above, is an important part of the expanded NIEHS Bethesda-based liaison office. Birnbaum recently appointed Aubrey Miller, M.D., as NIEHS senior medical officer and liaison to HHS, and a search is underway for a liaison to the toxicological community. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Senior Advisor for Public Health John Balbus, M.D., engaged a diverse set of stakeholders during May on the topic of global climate change. Balbus made the important connection between global climate change and effects on human health for people who are just beginning to understand the importance of this aspect of global health, raising awareness of NIEHS and building a network of potential collaborators at home and abroad.

As part of the NIEHS global health team, Balbus spoke to pediatricians and public health academics in Canada and delivered the keynote address at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Annual Meeting ( Exit NIEHS on May 1. Later in the month, he served as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) representative on the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ( Exit NIEHS conference in Bonn, Germany, May 31-June 11.

In Vancouver, Balbus addressed hundreds of academic pediatricians in a talk titled "Putting a Human Face on Climate Change: A Public Health Perspective." The following day he offered an update on children's environmental health activities at NIEHS to attendees at the Environmental Special Interest Group meeting, where he had a chance to speak with Ruth Etzel, M.D., Ph.D., World Health Organization coordinator on children¹s environmental health issues . Balbus also spoke to students and faculty at the schools of public health at The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.

Back in the U.S., Balbus updated DHHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, M.D., and others in the trans-DHHS climate change and human health workgroup in Washington, D.C. He also addressed the CleanMed ( Exit NIEHS 2010 conference in Baltimore and a special workshop on climate change and respiratory health during the American Thoracic Society International Conference ( Exit NIEHS in New Orleans.

Looking ahead to Bonn, Balbus said, "I'm honored and excited to offer public health expertise to the U.S. delegation to the UNFCCC." According to NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., this kind of higher visibility will help lay the framework for giving policymakers a fresh, human perspective on climate change, adding public health arguments for effective actions to limit climate change to the prevailing ecological, economic and diplomatic arguments.

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