Future-proofing health against climate change

Erin Coughlan de Perez was living in New York City when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. Hurricane Sandy was one of the deadliest storms to ever hit New York City, killing 44 residents, displacing thousands, and causing billions of dollars in damage. “Being part of the community and seeing what worked and what didn’t was influential to me,” Coghlan de Perez says.

Currently research director and Dignitas Professor at the Feinstein International Center at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Coghlan de Pérez is conducting international, interdisciplinary research to identify ways to prevent climate-related negative health impacts. leads a team of people. Disasters such as floods, typhoons, and droughts.

The group, the Center for Climate and Health Global Disaster Research (CORD), has more than 25 distinguished researchers and 10 doctoral students across seven universities in the United States, Bangladesh, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, the Philippines, and Uganda. of students included.

CORD recently received a $3 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Over three years, researchers will use this grant to analyze vast amounts of data to reduce, or ideally prevent, dangerous health effects in specific communities affected by environmental disasters. The plan is to identify practical measures that can be taken in advance of anticipated risks.

Ultimately, it is hoped that this will contribute to the introduction of protocols to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, malnutrition and dengue fever.

“Part of the idea behind this grant, and what makes it so exciting, is that we’re not just studying how bad climate change is,” Coughlan said.・De Perez says. The point is not to write more about his work saying that sea levels are rising or that flooding is devastating. This is to help maintain future health against climate change. ”

Tufts Now Coghlan de Pérez about how her group identifies anticipatory behavior, what role data plays, and how its findings can help prevent human health disasters. I heard the story.

Tufts Now: What exactly does it mean? promising Health against climate change?

Erin Coughlan de Perez: It means predicting specific disasters in specific locations and breaking the link between those disasters and their harmful consequences for human health.

Climate change is scary, and it takes different forms and consequences around the world. First, we will look at his six case studies led by researchers from one of the collaborating universities. Our aim is to build on three different methodological approaches.

The first case study investigates cholera and other diarrheal diseases in Uganda’s refugee population. Floods and other climate-related hazards have a greater impact on these refugees, as they often live in risk-prone areas and have less access to services. We want to investigate how floods can affect refugee health and what is needed to prepare for floods and avoid negative health effects.

The second examines maternal and child health in Bangladesh. As sea levels rise, water sources there are becoming more saline, which has a particularly dire effect on pregnant women.

And two universities in southern Africa are studying the links between drought and food insecurity, malnutrition and mental health. Mental health aspects in particular are understudied. We want to explore what it means to survive a climate-related crisis that shows no signs of stopping, and how people are coping.

And finally, there are case studies investigating cyclone-induced cholera in Mozambique and dengue fever in the Philippines.

Of course, it is very important that we continue to take steps to stop climate change, such as reducing emissions and using green energy.

However, this project is not focused on controlling or preventing climate disasters. We are already living in a changed climate, and the situation will only get worse. What we need to know is how we can survive and thrive in this changed climate, especially for underserved and at-risk communities around the world. How do we manage the current situation and the situation 20 years from now? What choices can we make to reduce outbreaks and break the link between storms and their impact on human health?

Does the methodology you build to generate predictive behavior apply only to the location you are studying?

No, the goal is to create a methodology that can be applied in a variety of locations. For example, here in New England, we’re very concerned about Lyme disease. Some of the same strategies and analytical techniques used in this project can be applied to understand how to better predict and prevent the rise in Lyme disease.

What is the role of data in this work?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to data. One is about the data you already have, or that you can acquire over the course of the project, to help you understand what’s going on. For example, research in the Philippines and Mozambique will provide detailed qualitative data from politicians and people working in ministries of health through interviews, focus groups and expert dialogue.

Elsewhere, we plan to capture survey data about people to understand their experiences. We then connect this data about people with data about climate. This is the part I’m particularly excited about. You will be examining a huge amount of climate data. Extreme weather events do not occur frequently, so the more data we have, the better our understanding of extreme weather events. We then use innovative technology to link climate data to social and health outcomes data. The overlap of these three research fields should yield a wealth of information.

But another big goal of this grant is to build the capacity to integrate data sets. This is another way to think about data in this project. We will build more partnerships and data usage agreements with those who hold important data, and we will continue to build more partnerships and data use agreements with people who hold important data, so that we can share as much information as possible, for example on how heatwaves affect understudied populations. I’ll make sure to check it out.

There is another important thing to note about the data we analyze. With this project, Tufts isn’t flying around the world extracting data from people. Research is locally led. That’s part of the appeal of this grant.

What kind of real-world impact do you hope this initiative will have?

A key element of this project is to work with humanitarian decision-makers at all levels in affected countries around the world and in the region to support changes in protocols on how to anticipate disasters.

We aim to work with national policymakers to share our findings and use them to recommend issues to consider and actions to take.

We are also working with the affected communities themselves, which is very important. We want to understand what people are already doing to address these crises and how we can support their current efforts. For example, the Mozambique Red Cross Society has a procedure in place that indicates what steps to follow if a storm warning about an approaching cyclone is confirmed. Our research aims to improve such community-driven protocols, or to help build them where they don’t exist.

Finally, we focus on the next generation, mentoring the next group of leaders and working closely with the Ph.D. All work colleagues. How can we ensure that a new generation, which already has a global and interdisciplinary perspective, can continue this work and continually refine and improve it?

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