The rise in temperature trends globally due to climate change has been associated with increased mortality and is recognized as a risk factor for chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). In South Africa, warming is happening at twice the global rate, calling for climate action to mitigate its impact, especially on health. The nationwide effects of temperature on CVD mortality have been studied. However, the effect of temperature on CVD morbidity in remote areas such as Limpopo has not yet been investigated. Limpopo harbours the highest levels of poverty in the country. With a population of 5.4 million inhabitants, 72.4% live in poverty. Moreover, only 4.2% of the households have air conditioning. Considering that Limpopo is one of the hottest areas in South Africa, the CVD risk in the province is very high and could exacerbate the CVD burden, which is a major public health concern.
Guéladio Cissé is the lead and coordinator of the project “Climate change and cardiovascular diseases: state and exploratory analyses of patient data in Limpopo province, South Africa”, financed by the Leading House Africa at Swiss TPH / University of Basel. The project took place in the framework of a scientific collaboration between the research group on “Ecosystem services, climate and health” of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Swiss TPH, the Environment and Health Unit of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the University of Johannesburg in South Africa (with Caradee Wright as co-applicant and co-principal investigator).
Cissé led in the past several studies on climate change and health, including in South Africa and is member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II as a coordinating lead author.
Through Leading House Africa’s Seed Funding Research Grant on SDGs in Limpopo, the research organization, Swiss TPH, the University of Pretoria, and the South Africa Medical Research Council, among other partners, formed a collaborative environment to realize the findings of this study through a duration period of one year. In addition, Leading House enabled networking among the operational teams and organizations through sharing ideas geared towards a similar goal, and thus creating new opportunities and ideas that could take climate change and CVD research to a sustainable level.
An ecological study utilized health admission records from 2002-to 2016 in two public district hospitals-Nkhensani hospital and Maputha l. Malatjie Hospital, our study population, as individuals living in Limpopo province who had access to the two health facilities. We managed to work with a team in Switzerland composed of a PhD student (Shreya Shrikhande) and a Master degree student (Jacqueline Buehler) from Switzerland and a strong team in South Africa, starting with data collectors and scientists who assisted with digitizing the hospital admission records from 2002-to 2016. Moreover, we obtained daily mean ambient temperature (Tavrg), wind speed (WS) and relative humidity (RH) from the Thohoyandou weather station from 1. January 2002 until 31. December 2016 measured in degrees Celsius (°C), m/s and g/m3, respectively. In addition, we identified some discrepancies occurring at the facility level, individuals and the weather trends across the province that may be associated with the prevalence of CVDs in the region. For example, warm and specific cold apparent temperatures (12-24°C) have the potential to increase CVD admissions cumulated over 21 days, with cold temperatures being responsible for the most considerable fraction of CVD admissions. The study suggests further studies to strengthen these first findings, to identify vulnerable groups, and to improve public health through evidence-based mitigation strategies.
This grant gave an opportunity of enrolling two Master students, with one who completed her Master thesis in June 2021 on CVDs (Ms Jacqueline Biehler) and another one who pursued on respiratory illnesses (Mr Daniel Kipo) for a completion in 2022, mentored by a PhD student (Ms Shreya Schrikhende).