Droughts, floods, newly emerging pathogens: the effects of climate change are manifold. Swiss TPH experts study the health impact of climate change in various regions in Africa and Europe. They assess the influences of heat waves on mortality, monitor the spread of the tiger mosquito in the southern part of Switzerland or establish risk profiles of African communities affected by heavy flooding with a particular attention to vulnerability of water and sanitation systems.
Considerable Health Consequences due to Climate Change
Climate change is expected to negatively impact health and well-being in all countries of the world. It is estimated that by 2050, 6 billion people will be at risk of one or several of the ‘big 7’ climate-related diseases: malaria, haemorrhagic fevers, schistosomiasis, human African trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and onchocerciasis. Swiss TPH applies interdisciplinary research linking climate science, disease trend forecasting, mitigation and adaptation strategies. Better protection of the most vulnerable populations requires collaboration among several research groups and partners in Switzerland and all over the world.
Swiss TPH experts deployed an eco-health approach to analyse people's adaption to climate change in four secondary cities in West Africa. The first phase of the project analysed particularly the vulnerabilities of water and sanitation systems as well as water related diseases. The second phase is focussig on the people's abilities to cope with malaria and bilharzia infections on the fringes of the Sahelian belt. Heavy rains and floods, associated with climate change, have drastically increased in West Africa over the last decades. Floods might contaminate drinking water sources with faecal pathogens, and stagnant water is an ideal breeding ground for disease transmitting mosquitoes.
Diarrhoea accounts for 16% of deaths of children under 5 years in South Africa. A Swiss TPH project identifies the sources and levels of contamination of the Lotus River system in Cape Town. Health specialists assess the self-reported prevalence of childhood diarrhoea among the population living near the river and identify health related risk behaviour at household and community levels. The ultimate aim of the study is to recommend control measures to prevent diarrhoeal diseases.
Swiss TPH epidemiologist analyse national data to assess the effect of heat on mortality and morbidity in Switzerland. They identify those groups most at risk and evaluate the impact of the preventive measures adopted by health authorities. The heat wave of 2003 in Switzerland was unprecedented in terms of high numbers of deaths among the Swiss population. It led the government to issue a large-scale information campaign and recommendations that have been implemented by various cantons and health authorities ever since.