HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Disease Outbreaks and Climate Change Adaptation

Although, incidence of malaria has decreased over the past century, a recent article points out the rising concern about new malaria risks worldwide brought about by global climate change. The article quotes a scientist with the Sudanese National Academy of Sciences explaining that because malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, its distribution patterns can be altered by changes in weather conditions, including changes in temperature, humidity, rainfall and the general availability of fresh water.

The shifting distribution of water is certainly something that adaptation planners need to consider – the malaria risk and droughts in the Horn of Africa both examples of climate change effects with influences on the spread of illness. According to a recent article in Science Daily, there is also evidence that climate change is playing a role in disease outbreaks of diseases such as chytridiomycosis, and of Lyme disease, as the tick vector Ixodes scapularis expands its range. The same article suggests that climate change will render conditions more favorable for human bubonic plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestiswhich, and is still reported regularly in Central Asia.

This and other evidence make the development of adaptation approaches a global health policy priority. And to work, it is generally agreed that top down approaches are rarely effective: the people who must implement the strategies – which are often rural, poor communities most vulnerable to these diseases - must be involved in the design and implementation. Nonprofit stakeholder groups like the Prolinnova network (whose brief is available here)emphasize the need to empower local communities and facilitate grassroots innovation to address adaptation strategies.


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