How One Doctor’s Interest in Preventative Medicine Led him to Climate Work

By path2positive

Dr. Barry Levy's childhood concerns about environmental destruction, coupled by his interest in preventative medicine, have led him to feel compelled about working to reduce the impacts of climate change. Dr. Levy's many global experiences have given him a broad understanding of our impending climate threats, and he knows firsthand that climate change poses a whole new sets of public health threats to the world that have never before existed. This is the basis of his new book, Climate Change and Public Health, just out from Oxford University Press, which Dr. Levy co-edited with Dr. Jonathan Patz. "Climate change is a risk multiplier. What this means is that many of the existing public health problems will be enhanced, so that people who are already suffering from, say, ill effects of air pollution, or water pollution, or who are living in areas where vector-borne diseases are endemic, or living in hot areas and suffering the effects of heat, will see these problems increase significantly," says Dr. Levy in his interview below. The book is a useful resource for health professionals who want to gain a better understanding of the overlaps between climate and health.

The Looming Health Threats from Climate Change


By Bruce Morgan I October 15, 2015

Growing up in the industrial community of Bayonne, N.J., Barry Levy, A66, began to get interested in environmental issues. “My dad often drove me through the industrial area of town, and I became interested in how the oil refineries and the factories there impacted the environment and people’s health,” he says. Levy later broadened his interest to include public health and preventive medicine.

After graduating summa cum laude from Tufts College in 1966, he earned his M.D. degree from Cornell and his M.P.H. from Harvard. Board-certified in internal medicine and occupational medicine, he has taught at UMass Medical School, where he was a professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine between 1977 and 1988, and at Tufts, where he has been an adjunct professor of public health since 1993.

Levy has traveled the world extensively, teaching, studying, consulting or doing field research in some 20 countries, including two years in Kenya as a visiting research scientist, two months in Jamaica working in a rural health clinic, two months in China as a visiting professor and two months in Thailand working in a camp for Cambodian refugees.

These global experiences inform his sense of climate threats in the world. “Having lived in Kenya and China, I know they are not far-off lands where the threats are theoretical,” he says. “I know people who are there now. I know firsthand that the existing public health threats are challenging enough without this whole new set of issues.”

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