TJ7.1 El Nino and Health: A Tale of Two Disciplines (Invited Presentation)

Tuesday, 24 January 2017: 10:30 AM
Conference Center: Tahoma 5 (Washington State Convention Center )
Glenn Russell McGregor, Univ. of Durham, Durham, UK

Rightly or wrongly when I see or hear the phrase El Nino and Health the two disciplines of climate science and epidemiology or public health spring to mind as quite independent endeavours. Typically preceding, during or after an El Nino event, the climate science community concerns itself with the atmosphere-ocean evolution or impacts of the event often with recourse to extensive data sets at a range of temporal and spatial scales. In contrast the epidemiological and or public health communities typically forewarn of the potential health impacts of El Nino and where possible, based on less than ideal health outcome data and well established methodological approaches, undertake retrospective analyses of the health impacts of El Nino related climate anomalies. While the motives of the two disciplines are the same, that is to understand one of the most important climate phenomena from either a physical or health perspective, it is relatively rare that the two communities join forces to understand how anomalies in atmosphere-ocean interactions propagate through health systems to affect health outcomes. This paper therefore attempts to offer a framework for integrating climate and health outcome observations and thus bringing two seemingly disparate disciplines together for the purpose of improving the understanding of the climate drivers of health outcomes during El Nino events, with a particular focus on an often neglected region, namely the South West Pacific and Pacific Island Countries (PICs). Further the paper hopes to demonstrate how climate observations and predictions can assist with decision making related to health risk management and building resilience in health systems aimed at reducing vulnerability to and preventing additional burden of disease due to future El Niño events in PICs.

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