Public health emerges as the final common pathway for all impacts of climate variability and climate change on individuals as well as societies. It is essential that public health communities and government central planners understand the role climate plays in driving disease burden and affecting economic growth.
Public health is an effort organized by society to protect, promote and restore people’s health. It is a combination of sciences, skills and beliefs directed to the maintenance and improvement of health through collective or social actions. In consequence, good health status is one of the primary aspirations of human social development. As a result, health indicators are key components of human development indices – the Millennium Development Goals, for example – by which we measure progress toward sustainable development.
The World Health Organization recently identified 14 climate sensitive communicable diseases, including malaria, cholera and dengue. WHO describes these diseases as being promising candidates for the development of climate informed early warning systems. It acknowledges also, that some non-communicable diseases including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are climate sensitive. IRI is a PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre on Early Warning Systems for Malaria and other Climate-Sensitive Diseases.
In particular, the public health commitment of the IRI involves developing, with partners, a knowledge system based on three main components:
- Understanding the community of practice, identifying the needs, and collaborating with Ministries of Health (and its research and development partners) to work at the local to regional levels;
- Developing tools to monitor, and predict disease epidemics incorporating climate data, patterns and trends; and
- Building capacity through the education and training of public health professionals (with partners from the climate community) on the relationship between climate and health.