A Holistic Approach to Climate and Health Research: Respiratory and Infectious Diseases
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 8:45 AM
The link between climate variability and change, especially extreme conditions, is well documented in both environmental and health literature. The focus of research in the recent past, and current studies, is to understand causal relationships between the disease agents and environmental conditions, based on post-hoc analysis of observed cases to develop predictive models for advance warning of public by health authorities. A combination of the isolated examination of individual diseases and routes of infection (e.g. respiratory system, skin, digestive tract, etc.) and reliance mostly on correlative evidence from past occurrences have restricted public health progress (e.g. compared to experimental evidence of the quantitative balance of different transmission routes) and the utility of knowledge gained from such studies (e.g. reliably predicting seasonal outbreaks is no longer an advance). We propose a shift from focusing on the prediction of individual disease pattern(s) to a more holistic identification and mitigation of broader vulnerabilities within the provision of public health. Such an approach has the potential to account for and reveal health vulnerabilities common to a broader range of health stresses, thus facilitating a more holistic response to health challenges. The human health fragilities associated with respiratory diseases caused by a combination of natural (i.e dust, pollen, etc.) and industrial particulates (i.e. soot, aerosols, etc.) and other infectious airborne agents, for example, and their adverse impact on human health such as respiratory, gastrointestinal, etc. is an ideal candidate for such a holistic approach to environment and health research.