• 1.

    Smith KR, Woodward A, Campbell-Lendrum D, Chadee DD, Honda Y, Liu Q, Olwoch JM, Revich B, Sauerborn R, 2014. Human health: impacts, adaptation, and co-benefits. Field CB, Barros VR, Dokken DJ, Mach KJ, Mastrandrea MD, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ES, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, White LL, eds. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 709754.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Watson RT, Zinyowera MC, Moss RH, 1998. The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Gallup JL, Sachs JD, Mellinger AD, 1999. Geography and economic development. Pleskovic B, Stiglitz JE, eds. Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics 1998. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, The World Bank, 127178. Available at: http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/1999/09/14/000094946_99051205334462/Rendered/PDF/multi_page.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2007. Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing Countries. Bonn, Germany. Available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/publications/impacts.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Grimm NB, Faeth SH, Golubiewski NE, Redman CL, Wu J, Bai X, Briggs JM, 2008. Global change and the ecology of cities. Science 319: 756760.

  • 6.

    D'Amato G, Cecchi L, D'Amato M, Annesi-Maesano I, 2014. Climate change and respiratory diseases. Eur Respir Rev 23: 161169.

  • 7.

    Rosenthal J, 2009. Climate change and the geographic distribution of infectious diseases. EcoHealth 6: 489495.

  • 8.

    Bandyopadhyay S, Kanji S, Wang L, 2012. The impact of rainfall and temperature variation on diarrheal prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa. Appl Geogr 33: 6372.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Alexander KA, Carzolio M, Goodin D, Vance E, 2013. Climate change is likely to worsen the public health threat of diarrheal disease in Botswana. Int J Environ Res Public Health 10: 12021230.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Singh RBK, Simon H, de Wet N, Raj R, Hearnden M, Weinstein P, 2001. The influence of climate variation and change on diarrheal disease in the Pacific Islands. Environ Health Perspect 109: 155159.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Mills JN, Gage KL, Khan AS, 2010. Potential influence of climate change on vector-borne and zoonotic diseases: a review and proposed research plan. Environ Health Perspect 118: 15071514.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12.

    McLeman R, Smit B, 2006. Migration as an adaptation to climate change. Clim Change 76: 3153.

  • 13.

    Reuveny R, 2007. Climate change: induced migration and violent conflict. Polit Geogr 26: 656673.

  • 14.

    Black R, Stephen R, Bennett G, Thomas SM, Beddington JR, 2011. Migration as adaptation. Nature 478: 447449.

  • 15.

    Keim ME, 2008. Building human resilience: the role of public health preparedness and response as an adaptation to climate change. Am J Prev Med 35: 508516.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 16.

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015. Conference of the Parties Twenty-first Session. Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Paris, France. Available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015. Paris Agreement. Section 7.d. Chapter XXVII. Environment. Paris, France. Available at: https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII-7-d&chapter=27&lang=en. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    Executive Board of the World Health Organization at its 136th Session, 2015. WHO Workplan on Climate Change and Health. Aims and Objectives: 2014–2019. Geneva, Switzerland. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/health_policy/climate-change-and-health-workplan-2014-2019.pdf?ua=1. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    World Health Organization, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015. The Climate and Health Country Profiles. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/resources/countries/en/. Accessed May 11, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20.

    Ebi K, Berry P, Campbell-Lendrum D, Corvalan C, Guillemot J, 2009. Protecting Health from Climate Change: Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/publications/Final_Climate_Change.pdf. Accessed May 11, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    Wachinger G, Renn O, Begg C, Kuhlicke C, 2013. The risk perception paradox: implications for governance and communication of natural hazards. Risk Anal 33: 10491065.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Paton D, 2008. Risk communication and natural hazard mitigation: how trust influences its effectiveness. Int J Glob Environ Issues 8: 216.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23.

    Renn O, Levine D, 1991. Credibility and trust in risk communication. Kasperson RE, Stallen PJM, eds. Communicating Risks to the Public. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 175217.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24.

    Harrington DW, Elliott SJ, 2015. Understanding emerging environmental health risks: a framework for responding to the unknown. Can Geogr 59: 283296.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25.

    English PB, Sinclair AH, Ross Z, Anderson H, Boothe V, Davis C, Ebi K, Kagey B, Malecki K, Shultz R, Simms E, 2009. Environmental health indicators of climate change for the United States: findings from the State Environmental Health Indicator Collaborative. Environ Health Perspect 117: 16731681.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26.

    Cheng JJ, Berry P, 2013. Development of key indicators to quantify the health impacts of climate change on Canadians. Int J Public Health 58: 765775.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27.

    Albert S, Leon JX, Grinham AR, Church JA, Gibbes BR, Woodroffe CD, 2016. Interactions between sea-level rise and wave exposure on reef island dynamics in the Solomon Islands. Environ Res Lett 11: 054011.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28.

    Natuzzi ES, Joshua C, Shortus M, Reubin R, Dalipanda T, Ferran K, Aumua A, Brodine S, 2016. Defining population health vulnerability following an extreme weather event in an urban Pacific island environment: Honiara, Solomon Islands. Am J Trop Med Hyg 95: 307314.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 29.

    Sarfaty M, Montoro M, Price K, Kreslake J, Ewart G, Guidotti T, Thurston G, Maibach E, 2015. Global Views of Thoracic Specialists on the Health Effects of Climate Change: An International Survey of American Thoracic Society Members Excluding the United States. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University and the American Thoracic Society. Available at: http://www.climatechangecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/20151204%20ATS%20Final%20International%20Survey%20Report.pdf. Accessed June 4, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

 

 

 

 

Documenting the Human Health Impacts of Climate Change in Tropical and Subtropical Regions

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  • 1 Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Climate change is harming human health, and the magnitude of the harm is increasing.1 This is especially true in tropical and subtropical regions that are vulnerable to greater intensity, frequency, and duration of extreme weather, such as hurricanes, drought, and increases in heat, as a result of climate change.2 Nearly all countries situated in the geographic tropics are poor, and therefore have fewer resources to adapt to impacts of climate change.3,4 Protecting the public's health in these regions from serious—potentially catastrophic—harm associated with climate change requires coordinated response from tropical medicine and global health professionals, and from leaders of civil society more broadly.

Implications of Climate Change for Tropical Medicine

For developing countries in tropical and subtropical regions, infrastructure challenges combine with environmental conditions to increase health-related vulnerabilities to climate change. Industrial and vehicle emissions in hot, humid cities contribute to poor air quality due to smog, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality from respiratory diseases.5,6 Acute health effects of storms and flooding include injury and death, as well as indirect effects such as compromised sanitation systems that contribute to increased incidence of diarrheal diseases.710 Heat, drought, and extreme weather events impact agricultural production and threaten food security, particularly for populations that rely on subsistence farming.8 Warmer, humid conditions will expand habitats for insect and zoonotic disease vectors and contribute to accelerated vector breeding and pathogen maturation and multiplication within the vector (e.g., as with malaria).11 Beyond regional health outcomes, the preponderance of climate change impacts in tropical and subtropical regions has implications for global health security, with population displacement and migration from environmental changes playing a role in conflict, economic challenges, and social upheaval, as well as emerging infectious disease transmission.1214

Global Governance and Local Responses to Climate Change

Climate change will require systematic and sustained disaster risk management. In addition to relief efforts, public health responses include prevention and preparedness before disasters occur.15 National and international guidelines should inform local planning activities.

Climate change adaptation (preparedness) and mitigation (prevention) can occur through policies and interventions at international, national, and local levels. In December 2015, 176 countries and the European Union signed the Paris Agreement, a treaty under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change committed to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, enhanced adaptation efforts, and alignment of financial activities with climate-resilient development goals.16,17 This treaty begins to address the driving forces and pressures contributing to climate change that can be managed through national policies in signatory countries, such as those concerning greenhouse gas emissions, energy, transport, agriculture, and land use.

In support of the Paris Agreement, the World Health Organization (WHO) encourages strengthening health system capacity and documentation of vulnerabilities and policy responses to climate change.18,19 The WHO provides guidance for national or local preparedness for the health impacts of climate change, including vulnerability, impact, and adaptation assessments.20

Risk Communication to Regions Experiencing Acute Health Impacts of Climate Change

Public perceptions of disaster risk are influenced by previous personal experiences with the natural hazard and levels of trust in authorities and experts.21 Failed preparedness and response efforts can damage trust in authorities, rendering individuals less likely to comply with recommendations from these sources in future hazards.22 Thus, sustained, well-planned, and culturally relevant public health responses to climate change impacts are paramount. Maintaining accurate estimations of risk is important (i.e., not overinflating personal risk from hazards, yet providing necessary information) to sustain public trust and engagement.23 For recurring hazards, risk communication should activate individuals' recall of previous experiences, or indirect experience from witnessing media reports of hazards, when encouraging protective actions. For novel or emerging environmental risks, authorities should provide clear recommendations based on what is known, be transparent about areas of uncertainty, and maintain ongoing communication as information about appropriate protective action becomes available.21,24

Climate-Sensitive Injury and Disease Surveillance

In addition to tracking extreme weather events leading to hazards, injury and disease surveillance is needed to help public health officials respond efficiently to climate-sensitive health impacts and improve local clinical capacity. Indicators of these health impacts must be relevant to vulnerable populations and/or tropical and subtropical regions. Indicators that have been proposed in the United States25 and Canada26 include environmental conditions, morbidity and mortality from injury and disease, vulnerability (e.g., proximity to hazards), mitigation and adaptation efforts, and the policy environment. These are not exhaustive and may require further refinement to be applicable to tropical and subtropical regions.

To properly prepare for the health burdens presented by climate change, public health agencies, health professionals, and researchers must document changes occurring in climate-sensitive health outcomes in tropical and subtropical regions. In addition, descriptions of the status of infrastructure and clinical capacity to respond to these impacts are needed, particularly among developing countries.

Assessing Health Vulnerabilities in the Solomon Islands

In a striking early example of the observed effects of climate change, recent research has demonstrated that the Solomon Islands are disappearing due to shoreline change as a result of global sea-level rise, destroying villages and leading to community relocation.27 In this issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Natuzzi and others detail the human costs associated with this phenomenon.28

The Natuzzi study provides the necessary information for localities to plan for the health implications of climate change they are currently experiencing, and will increasingly face in the future. The authors analyze infrastructure challenges and human health vulnerabilities in a Solomon Island city during extreme downpours and subsequent flooding. The study uses a variety of surveillance sources to identify multiple direct impacts of this extreme weather event on public health: acute morbidity and mortality (e.g., blunt force trauma and drowning), subacute infectious disease impacts, influenza-like illness, vector-borne illness, and diarrhea. The authors use a geographic information system (GIS) to map population proximity to flooding risk and health system capacity, linking disparate sources such as census estimates, hospital bed data, and evaluation data from healthcare site visits. GIS technology is well suited to studies of climate change and health, given the close relationship between geographic features and population-level health outcomes. Strengthened surveillance systems and ongoing refinement of GIS analytic techniques will benefit climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

The events in the Solomon Islands are not expected to be an isolated occurrence, and climate change will result in epidemiological changes throughout the tropics. Physicians in tropical and subtropical regions (including Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Turkey, Cyprus, Georgia, Nigeria, Oman, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, China, Australia, and French Polynesia) have observed patient health outcomes they attribute to climate change.29 Systematic reporting of such outcomes in regionally specific contexts is urgently needed.

Conclusions

The field of tropical medicine will confront some of the first, most widespread, and most pronounced human health impacts of climate change. Documenting these health outcomes in localized contexts will enable practitioners to target treatment according to health vulnerabilities, highlight regional adaptation needs for public health agencies, and establish evidence of the earliest and mounting health consequences of climate change for policymakers and the public. These data are powerful tools for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Key public health principles, including prevention and preparedness, risk communication, and surveillance must be mobilized in the context of climate change. Individuals who, by virtue of geography or socioeconomic position, are most vulnerable to the acute consequences of climate change urgently require protection. More broadly, these efforts are crucial to global health interests, and serve as a harbinger of the integral role that the health sector will occupy in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

  • 1.

    Smith KR, Woodward A, Campbell-Lendrum D, Chadee DD, Honda Y, Liu Q, Olwoch JM, Revich B, Sauerborn R, 2014. Human health: impacts, adaptation, and co-benefits. Field CB, Barros VR, Dokken DJ, Mach KJ, Mastrandrea MD, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ES, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, White LL, eds. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 709754.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Watson RT, Zinyowera MC, Moss RH, 1998. The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Gallup JL, Sachs JD, Mellinger AD, 1999. Geography and economic development. Pleskovic B, Stiglitz JE, eds. Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics 1998. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, The World Bank, 127178. Available at: http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/1999/09/14/000094946_99051205334462/Rendered/PDF/multi_page.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2007. Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing Countries. Bonn, Germany. Available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/publications/impacts.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Grimm NB, Faeth SH, Golubiewski NE, Redman CL, Wu J, Bai X, Briggs JM, 2008. Global change and the ecology of cities. Science 319: 756760.

  • 6.

    D'Amato G, Cecchi L, D'Amato M, Annesi-Maesano I, 2014. Climate change and respiratory diseases. Eur Respir Rev 23: 161169.

  • 7.

    Rosenthal J, 2009. Climate change and the geographic distribution of infectious diseases. EcoHealth 6: 489495.

  • 8.

    Bandyopadhyay S, Kanji S, Wang L, 2012. The impact of rainfall and temperature variation on diarrheal prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa. Appl Geogr 33: 6372.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Alexander KA, Carzolio M, Goodin D, Vance E, 2013. Climate change is likely to worsen the public health threat of diarrheal disease in Botswana. Int J Environ Res Public Health 10: 12021230.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Singh RBK, Simon H, de Wet N, Raj R, Hearnden M, Weinstein P, 2001. The influence of climate variation and change on diarrheal disease in the Pacific Islands. Environ Health Perspect 109: 155159.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Mills JN, Gage KL, Khan AS, 2010. Potential influence of climate change on vector-borne and zoonotic diseases: a review and proposed research plan. Environ Health Perspect 118: 15071514.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12.

    McLeman R, Smit B, 2006. Migration as an adaptation to climate change. Clim Change 76: 3153.

  • 13.

    Reuveny R, 2007. Climate change: induced migration and violent conflict. Polit Geogr 26: 656673.

  • 14.

    Black R, Stephen R, Bennett G, Thomas SM, Beddington JR, 2011. Migration as adaptation. Nature 478: 447449.

  • 15.

    Keim ME, 2008. Building human resilience: the role of public health preparedness and response as an adaptation to climate change. Am J Prev Med 35: 508516.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 16.

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015. Conference of the Parties Twenty-first Session. Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Paris, France. Available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015. Paris Agreement. Section 7.d. Chapter XXVII. Environment. Paris, France. Available at: https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII-7-d&chapter=27&lang=en. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    Executive Board of the World Health Organization at its 136th Session, 2015. WHO Workplan on Climate Change and Health. Aims and Objectives: 2014–2019. Geneva, Switzerland. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/health_policy/climate-change-and-health-workplan-2014-2019.pdf?ua=1. Accessed May 10, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    World Health Organization, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015. The Climate and Health Country Profiles. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/resources/countries/en/. Accessed May 11, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20.

    Ebi K, Berry P, Campbell-Lendrum D, Corvalan C, Guillemot J, 2009. Protecting Health from Climate Change: Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/publications/Final_Climate_Change.pdf. Accessed May 11, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    Wachinger G, Renn O, Begg C, Kuhlicke C, 2013. The risk perception paradox: implications for governance and communication of natural hazards. Risk Anal 33: 10491065.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Paton D, 2008. Risk communication and natural hazard mitigation: how trust influences its effectiveness. Int J Glob Environ Issues 8: 216.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23.

    Renn O, Levine D, 1991. Credibility and trust in risk communication. Kasperson RE, Stallen PJM, eds. Communicating Risks to the Public. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 175217.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24.

    Harrington DW, Elliott SJ, 2015. Understanding emerging environmental health risks: a framework for responding to the unknown. Can Geogr 59: 283296.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25.

    English PB, Sinclair AH, Ross Z, Anderson H, Boothe V, Davis C, Ebi K, Kagey B, Malecki K, Shultz R, Simms E, 2009. Environmental health indicators of climate change for the United States: findings from the State Environmental Health Indicator Collaborative. Environ Health Perspect 117: 16731681.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26.

    Cheng JJ, Berry P, 2013. Development of key indicators to quantify the health impacts of climate change on Canadians. Int J Public Health 58: 765775.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27.

    Albert S, Leon JX, Grinham AR, Church JA, Gibbes BR, Woodroffe CD, 2016. Interactions between sea-level rise and wave exposure on reef island dynamics in the Solomon Islands. Environ Res Lett 11: 054011.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28.

    Natuzzi ES, Joshua C, Shortus M, Reubin R, Dalipanda T, Ferran K, Aumua A, Brodine S, 2016. Defining population health vulnerability following an extreme weather event in an urban Pacific island environment: Honiara, Solomon Islands. Am J Trop Med Hyg 95: 307314.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 29.

    Sarfaty M, Montoro M, Price K, Kreslake J, Ewart G, Guidotti T, Thurston G, Maibach E, 2015. Global Views of Thoracic Specialists on the Health Effects of Climate Change: An International Survey of American Thoracic Society Members Excluding the United States. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University and the American Thoracic Society. Available at: http://www.climatechangecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/20151204%20ATS%20Final%20International%20Survey%20Report.pdf. Accessed June 4, 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Jennifer M. Kreslake, Program on Climate and Health, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, MS 6A8, Fairfax, VA 22030. E-mail: jkreslak@gmu.edu

Authors' addresses: Jennifer M. Kreslake, Mona Sarfaty, and Edward W. Maibach, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, E-mails: jkreslak@gmu.edu, msarfaty@gmu.edu, and emaibach@gmu.edu.

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