Communication Disorders and Climate Change

ASHA recently published an article titled, "Communication and Swallowing Disorders: The Effects of Climate Change." This article discusses how the multi-faceted issue of climate change has and will continue to have far-reaching effects on human health and well-being, including communication disorders. Because a speech pathologist's scope of practice includes not only advocacy but also continuing education and community outreach, the author suggests that it is vital that speech pathologists and professionals in related fields take action to raise awareness of the impact of a changing climate on human communication and health.

As a matter of public health, the impacts of greater temperature extremes, air pollution, drought, and many other effects might seem to suggest a greater impact on respiratory or cardiovascular health than on communication and swallowing; however, recent research has shown the effects of these trends on birth and early development, as well as risks for geriatric populations, according to recent research. A sample of the literature shows:

  1. The effects of heat extremes on first-time stroke.
  2. The association of heat and air pollution with preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth.
  3. Environmental exposure to air pollution and the etiology of Autism.
  4. Greater health spending as a result of climate forecasts.
  5. Respiratory and laryngeal cancers related to air pollution.
  6. Challenges in global nutrition and concomitant early development.

While the list of challenges is daunting, there are research-backed strategies to combat the worst effects of climate change within the field. In this article, the author recommends pragmatic strategies for action, including educating SLPs and other health professionals and stakeholders on the effects of climate change on communication and swallowing, promoting awareness with clients and families, and gathering and spreading reliable data and information on the topic.


Communication and Swallowing Disorders: The Effects of Climate Change | Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups

Paul Rice, M.S., CCC-SLP