World Health Day 2022: Exploring the link between Climate Change and Clinical Research
Each April 7th, the world commemorates World Health Day with the aim of shedding light on particular health topics across the globe. The date 7th April is significant since it marks the founding date of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. Following its establishment, the WHO established the first day first on June 22 which was later changed to April 7th.
Every year, the WHO Director General (DG)selects a theme for the day. In 2022, the theme selected was “Our Planet, Our Health” meant to highlight the link between the climate crisis and existing health conditions across the world. The effects of climate change which include extreme weather conditions, and a rising sea level have a direct impact on air and water conditions, food supply and human living conditions. As a result the world has experienced a rise in non-communicable and lifestyle diseases, as well as water-borne and vector-borne diseases. The theme is therefore a call for a united effort by all stakeholders to continually provide health services even as they address the link between the climate and health.
Here at BWICR, we would like to highlight what this means for the health industry and in particular clinical practice. In an article published on the New England Journal of Medicine, Renee Salaa mentions that the harmful health effects arising from climate change are constantly increasing. Harsh climatic conditions have increased the frequency of heat stress health emergencies. Apart from the more obvious health effects, there are illnesses arising from increased pollen in the air and reduced value in foods as a result of climate change.
A combination of both direct and indirect effects is guaranteed to strain existing health systems. For this reason, it has become necessary to adapt public health systems to factor in the climate change-related effects. For instance, Renee suggests creating alerts to health workers on areas with high temperatures that are able to cause peak burden in heat-related illnesses. She also suggests mass education for patients on heat-related illnesses, and how to avoid them.
For professionals in clinical research, this would look like, for instance, effects in radiology treatments due to climate-related weather conditions such as hurricanes. Climate change effects can also affect heat-sensitive medication, they can also determine which medications patients receive as some may increase the risk of illness.
This article thus calls to all health stakeholders to combine efforts in adapting public health systems to the effects arising from climate change. Furthermore, clinical professionals are being called to draw lessons from areas already experiencing the effects of climate change and adapt them to their own conditions. Finally, all professionals are urged to share best practices in a bid to learn from each other and strengthen our health systems.