The Caribbean today launched a far-reaching mechanism to measure the impact of climate change on the incidence of non-communicable diseases and other health issues in the region.
This morning marked the official launch of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Report in the Caribbean at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.
Director of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition Dr Carlene Radix, gave some background to the report: “The Lancet Countdown was officially established in 2012, and is comprised of over 120 leading experts from academic institutions, United Nations agencies, including engineers, political scientists, climate scientists, energy specialists, economists, public health professionals and doctors.
“The countdown works through communication and outreach, research and monitoring, and policy.
“They have been putting out an annual report since 2015 monitoring the indicators, and this year they will look at the impact of climate change and health in our region for the first time.”
She added, “Climate change has an impact on food security and food sources, the temperature of oceans, erosion of soil, unpredictability of weather for agriculture, temperature extremes leading to increased vector-borne illnesses, and people suffering from non-communicable diseases are worst affected in these circumstances.”
Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic said that the majority of Barbados’ infrastructure was on the island’s coastline and that area was home to 70,000 Barbadians.
In spelling out the connection between health and climate change, Bostic said: “We are heavily dependent on agriculture and tourism, and these sectors cannot withstand the shocks of climate change.
“Now, when we think of climate change, we talk about hurricanes, fires, sea-level rise and ocean acidification, but often do not think about health impacts, not only in terms of diseases but also the ability of small island developing states to deliver health care services properly owing to the impact of these events”.
The Health Minister also revealed that the Barbados-based Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) had done two studies on climate change and its impact on public health in Barbados and the Caribbean.
Lt Col Bostic said: “Between 2013 and 2017, there were two studies commissioned by CIMH with support from USAID and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
“Among their specific objectives was to detect potential ‘hot spots’ for transmission of dengue and chikungunya specifically in Barbados, with the long term intent to guide the ministry’s response to outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases utilising geospatial analysis along with climate data.
“This is central to the development of early warning systems which are also critically needed in other areas like water quantity and quality, as well as air quality”.
Lt Col Bostic welcomed the collaborative efforts of numerous Caribbean-based organisations in sponsoring the launch of the Lancet Countdown, including the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, the National NCD Commission Barbados, and corporate entities CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank and Sagicor.
He concluded with a reminder to the participants of the importance of mitigating the adverse effects of climate change by quoting former United Nations Secretary-General, Dr Ban Ki-Moon, who once underscored the importance of combatting climate change: “We do not have a Plan B because there is no Planet B.” (DH)