Human Health and Climate Change: Risks and responses in low- and middle-income countries

Monday 6 February 2017
12.30 - 1.30PM

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The Refectory, Abercrombie Business School | Cnr Codrington & Abercrombie Streets | University of Sydney


In partnership with  Sydney School of Public Health & School of Business, Interoperability in Extreme Events Research Group (IEERG)

Because the health risks of climate variability and change are not new, it has been assumed that health systems have the capacity, experience, and tools to effectively adapt to changing burdens of climate-sensitive health outcomes with additional climate change.  However, health systems in many low-income countries have insufficient capacity to manage current health burdens.  These countries also are those most vulnerable to climate change, including changes in food and water safety and security, increases in extreme weather and climate events, and increases in the geographic range, incidence, and seasonality of a variety of infectious diseases.

To facilitate assessing and overcoming barriers to implementation and to scaling up, a desk review of evaluation reports and other materials was conducted from the first five years of implementation (2008–2013) of multinational health adaptation projects in Albania, Barbados, Bhutan, China, Fiji, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.  Qualitative data were collected through a focus group consultation and 19 key informant interviews.

Lessons learned include that increasing resilience to the health risks of climate variability and change is likely to be achieved through longer-term, multifaceted and collaborative approaches, with supporting activities (and funding) for capacity building, communication, and institutionalized monitoring and evaluation.  Projects should be encouraged to focus not just on shorter-term outputs to address climate variability, but also on establishing processes to address longer-term climate change challenges.  Opportunities for capacity development in the health risks of climate change should be created, identified and reinforced for the full range of actors.

Irrespective of resource constraints, Ministries of Health and other institutions working on climate- and health-related issues in low- and middle-income countries need to continue to prepare themselves to maintain or improve health burdens in the context of a changing climate and socioeconomic development patterns.

Convenor: Anthony Capon, Professor of Planetary Health,  Sydney School of Public Health

Speaker: Kristie L. Ebi has been conducting research and practice on the health risks of climate variability and change for twenty years.  Her research focuses on the impacts of and adaptation to climate variability and change, including on extreme events, thermal stress, foodborne safety and security, and vectorborne diseases.  She focuses on understanding sources of vulnerability, estimating current and future health risks of climate change, and designing adaptation policies and measures to reduce the risks of climate change in multi-stressor environments.  She has supported multiple countries in Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific in assessing their vulnerability and implementing adaptation measures, in collaboration with WHO, UNDP, USAID, and others.  She also is co-chair of the International Committee on New Integrated Climate change assessment Scenarios (ICONICS), facilitating development of new climate change scenarios.  Dr. Ebi’s scientific training includes an M.S. in toxicology and a Ph.D. and a Masters of Public Health in epidemiology, and two years of postgraduate research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  She has edited four books on aspects of climate change and has more than 180 publications.