Exclusive Commentary: The Need for Better Data on Health Effects of Climate Change

 Women carry water jugs on their heads as they walk through the arid landscape of Rahasthan, India.The recent threat of climate change has change the local bio diversity level which causes scarcity of drinking water.
Image credit
© 2006 Sandipan Majumdar, Courtes

By Eileen Natuzzi, MD, MS, FACS

Reflecting increasing concern over climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) used some of its most dire language to date on the potential impacts of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and their effect on natural and human systems in its AR5 Synthesis Report, released November 1.

The report emphasized populations who are at increased risk of adverse consequences such as developing countries and disadvantaged people. Preparing health systems, including public health, worldwide to adapt to these future threats will avoid unnecessary morbidity and mortality.  This requires research on the direct and indirect health effects of climate change impacts due to increasing temperature, extreme weather events and population displacement from sea-level rise.

Research is also needed to link the effects of a changing climate both temporally and spatially to human diseases rates such as NCDs and infectious disease trends. By examining past events on a sub-regional, regional as well as global scale models can be developed that predict who is most at risk for what health impacts in the future.

Examining the current capacity of health systems in resource limited environments to respond to acute, sub-acute, and gradual health threats is also needed so that resilience and adaptation can counter our potential failure to mitigate the irreversible GHG effects our future may hold.

Eileen Natuzzi, MD, MS, FACS is a Medical Education Coordinator for the Solomon Island Living Memorial Project.

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