It is important that the Caribbean continues to investigate the relationships between climate variability and the incidence of diseases such as dengue fever, Zika and Chikungunya.
Barbados’ Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic, posited this last Thursday, as he addressed a seminar to launch the 2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Report at the Radisson Aquatica Hotel.
Minister Bostic observed that when people referred to the impact of climate change they normally cited hurricanes, droughts, fires and the slow onset of ocean acidification and sea-level rise…”we tend not to think about the health impacts”.
“But I would say that the health impacts not only relate to health in terms of vector-borne diseases and so on, but most importantly, the ability of small island developing states such as ours to deliver healthcare services as a result of the impact of climate change events.”
He cited a study commissioned by the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology which focused on public health and climate change issues relevant to Barbados and the wider Caribbean.
“Among the specific objectives was to detect potential hot spots for the transmission of dengue and Chikungunya in Barbados. The long-term intent was to guide the Ministry’s responses to outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, utilizing geospatial analysis in combination with climate data.”
The Minister of Health and Wellness said that this was central to the development of early warning systems which were also critically needed in other areas such as water quality and quantity, as well as air quality.
The initial results of the study, he shared, further served as the foundation for incorporating spatial analyses into the existing arbovirus surveillance network in Barbados and the Caribbean.
Noting the particular vulnerability of the Caribbean to increases in sea level, stronger hurricanes, longer dry seasons and shorter wet seasons, Minister Bostic said Dominica and the Bahamas could attest to the devastating consequences of extremes of weather on the health of the population.
Besides the devastation to hospitals and primary health care facilities, he drew attention to the many people with illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes, who were without medication and support from their health care team for weeks and even months along with the several reports of psychological harm with increased incidence of mental illness.
He said that the seminar was an opportunity to further examine these issues and to agree on how the region could best work together to advance its responses.
“I encourage all participants to fully engage in this seminar so as to ensure that we are able to maximize the benefits to our people across the region on the urgent issues of climate change and health.”