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Why Climate Action is Global Health Action?

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Photo: Oleksandr Sushko / Unsplash

[This post is a summary of an article by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Green Task Force members originally published in Am J Trop Med Hyg]

Climate action by global health communities such as American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) is a one of the ways of raising publicity of the negative impacts of climate change. The rationale of climate action plan is to reduce global inequalities and decrease carbon emissions which will improve the global health.

Why does climate change matter to me?

Climate change is affecting food production, increasing food prices, loss of lives, diminished livelihoods, reduced crop and livestock production, and damaged infrastructure. Hence climate change is leading to unpredictable weather patterns that is harmful to humans, animals, plants and the entire ecosystem. 

Locally at home, the climate in Kenya's is changing! Rainfall patterns have changed, with the long rainy season becoming shorter and dryer and the short rainy season longer and wetter. Droughts have intensified in terms of frequency, severity, and coverage. Several examples of climate change have occurred in Kenya; for example: firstly, is the torrential rains and severe flooding from March to May 2018 that devastated communities that were already struggling to recover from a prolonged drought. This flooding claimed over 183 lives, displaced more than 225,000 people, including more than 145,000 children, and closed over 700 schools. Secondly, Mount Kenya glaciers are declining, resulting in a rise of sea level rise along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast, coastal erosion, and wetland loss. Ultimately, coral bleaching and declining abundance and species of fish. Thirdly, is the intensifying and spreading of desertification in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) in Kenya.

Negative impacts of climate change

This trend is worrisome to human life and health globally; extreme heat causes dehydration, pregnancy complications, infectious diseases and cardiorespiratory morbidity and mortality. Physical impacts such as flooding, fires and drought results to community conflicts, food insecurity and population displacements due to straining for limited resources. Damaged ecosystems and declining biodiversity contribute to emerging infectious diseases. Changes in rainfall patterns, temperature, humidity and land use impacts positively on transmission of vector borne diseases. Climate change effects causes mental health illness such as anxiety, depression, acute stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. Vulnerable groups, such as children, adolescents, pregnant women, the immunocompromised, and the elderly are more predisposed to health-related risks. Extreme weather affects different geographies of the world unequally. Poorer groups and people living in low and lower middle-income countries are at higher risk of climate change impacts. Extreme weather events disruption is associated with increased violence against women, girls, and other vulnerable groups. 

ASTMH green task force is on the move to actualize the climate action plan by the recent adoption of the “ASTMH Green Statement 2021”. It has committed itself to; reduce the environmental carbon footprint of the Annual Meeting and the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, advance environmental sustainability within the global health efforts through encouraging interdisciplinary research and partnerships, and to create awareness within the society’s reach. 

Some of the ASTMH initiative to realize climate action goal includes

  1. Prioritizing virtual meetings instead of travels to reduce emissions. When travelling is mandatory; low carbon means of transportation should be preferred. Direct flights and bundling of meetings to reduce the frequency of travel will also help to minimize emissions.
  2. Laboratory personnel and researchers are called upon to adopt actions that limit waste generation and carbon emission.
  3. Facilitate multi-disciplinary scientific research to generate culturally-relevant innovative solutions that mitigate the impacts of climate change and build resilience of communities disproportionately affected.
  4. Facilitate learning and collaboration on sustainable practices with other professional sectors, Engaging stakeholders and collaborators with partners on matters global health. 

Climate action within ASTMH and global health community is possible and it is the key driver to a healthier, more environmentally sustainable and equitable planet. 



American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Green Task Force members. Why Climate Action Is Global Health Action. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2022 Jul 18:tpmd220189. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.22-0189. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35895350.