TJ5.5 The 2015−16 El Nino Event and Health Impacts in the Southwest Pacific: An Update

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 3:00 PM
Room 17B (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Glenn Russell McGregor, Univ. of Durham, Durham, UK; and C. Caiado, I. Bovolo, O. Jackson, and J. E. Bustamante-Fernandez

El Niño has a strong and varied impact on environmental conditions across the Pacific region, leading to a range of climate extremes. Such extremes possess the potential to exact a heavy toll on Pacific Island Countries (PICs), especially in relation to population health. This is of utmost concern as PICs are amongst those most vulnerable to variations in climate because of a high burden of ill-health and the limited capacity of health systems to respond and adapt to climate risks, as posed by events such as El Niño. Given this, the potential impacts of the recent 2015-2016 El Niño on people's health in PICs, as affected by a range of possible diseases (e.g. diarrhoea and dengue fever) could be significant. The overarching aim of this paper is to update an exploratory analysis, previously presented at the 8th Conference on Environment and Health, investigating a range of health impacts arising from the 2015-16 El Niño and its transition to non-El Niño conditions, for five PICs. Data used in the analysis includes both climate re-analysis and observation data as well as weekly reports, for the period 2010 - 2016 from the Pacific Syndromic Surveillance System (PSSS), for 4 major disease syndromes, namely Influeunza Like Illness (ILI), Diarrhoea (D), Acute Fever and Rash (AFR) and Prolongeed Fever (PR). Analysis results reveal contrasting concurrent and lagged climate-health associations for the five PICs investigated. This indicates a clear heterogeneity in health response to climatic variability for this vast geographical region. Findings bear implications for the application of seasonal climate forecasting to the development of climate based health warning systems. These implications will be discussed with conclusions drawn about the potential efficacy of climate services for health system planning in PICs.

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