Climate change is a significant and emerging threat to public health and changes the way nations look at protecting vulnerable populations.
An expert on climate change, Dr Jane Olwoch says there are two ways to lessen the impact of climate change to our health. "On a global scale, mitigation is very important not only for companies or governments. We must make sure that all of us live a lifestyle that leads to a decrease in greenhouse gases because in the end this will reduce the speed at which climate change is happening and also in the end will reduce the impact of health," she says.
Climate change affects the fundamental requirements for health, such as clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. "We need to make sure that we improve our awareness on climate and disease relationship and we to improve severance of diseases so that when control programmes take place, they take place in the right locations," says Olwoch.
She also says that lessening the impact of climate change on health will go hand in hand with economic development, because most of the diseases are related to poverty and underdevelopment.
"We need to make sure that we improve our awareness on climate and disease relationship and we to improve severance of diseases so that when control programmes take place, they take place in the right locations."
Health impacts can be expected from increased temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns, including an increase in the occurrence of strokes, skin rashes, dehydration and the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers. "Climate change may also bring about indirect health impacts such as an increase in the incidence of water-borne diseases," says Olwoch.
Another threat is the possible increase of vector borne diseases in some areas caused by blood sucking insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, lice, biting flies and bugs. She says however that some effects of climate change on health would be beneficial. For example, heavy rains could wash away mosquito eggs and larvae and lessen malaria incidences.
The United Nations Climate Change conference (COP 17) will be held in Durban South Africa from November 28 - December 9.