Medics mull strategies to cope with health impacts of climate change
Senior Lao doctors and ministry and institution officials have discussed public health strategies in response to climate change adaptation, sharing important information provided by a recent study for policy makers on the impact of climate change on women's sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
Participants post for a group photo before the meeting starts. .
The discussion took place at a consultation workshop held in Vientiane on February 10 to get final feedback on public health strategy with regard to climate change adaptation.
The World Health Organisation has indicated that climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century with impacts both directly and indirectly on human health particularly of women, children and elderly people whose need for adaptation strategies is greatest in the face of shifting weather patterns and resulting environmental phenomena.
Doctors and researchers Vanphanom Sychareaun and Manivone Thikeo, who led the study, said “Climate change affects human health by degrading the quality of air, water, food security, and shelter, all of which are indispensable to maintaining health. The impact of global warming increases the risk of disease pandemics, which are highly sensitive to climate change and weather events, including urban air pollution, cholera, diarrhoea, malaria, malnutrition and natural disasters combined.”
They said that Laos collaborates with countries and organisations in the region as well as globally to develop strong partnerships to seek solutions to reduce global warming, and adaptation to increasing global temperatures and the impacts of climate change.
In Laos, climate change has impacted various sectors, resulting in reduced food production and an increase in health problems and communicable and non-communicable diseases in the wake of extreme weather events. Because healthcare service delivery in many rural and remote areas is underdeveloped, knowledge and understanding of the impacts of climate change on health, particularly women's sexual and reproductive health and rights is limited.
They stressed that climate change impacts women by contributing to low birth weights, miscarriages, and stillbirths, and raises the mother and child mortality rate.
The recent study conducted by Drs Sychareun and Thikeo from the University of Health Science's Faculty of Postgraduate Studies on Climate Change Impacting the SRHR of Marginalised Women in Laos found that knowledge of climate change and awareness of, and the need for, the SRHR of women to be included in public health disaster planning strategy is very limited in Laos.
Climate change policy makers from national to village level and marginalised women demonstrated limited knowledge and understanding of how climate change impacts health and SRHR. The disaster response committee at the national level is not fully developed to minimise negative health outcomes as a result of climate change.
It is therefore crucial for all relevant ministries and authorities to discuss and address climate change and health outcomes, particularly SRHR services in marginalised and remote areas, to avoid further raising the mortality rate among reproductive age and pregnant women.
The researchers provided some recommendations for key policy makers on climate change and future research as follows:
Recommendations for policy makers
There is a need to develop a multilevel communication system for policy makers from different ministries to integrate climate change intervention strategies on climate change policy to reduce existing vulnerabilities and harmful health outcomes. Increase public awareness by getting media involved in climate change awareness raising and health outcomes, particularly the importance of strengthening access to SRHR services in non-disaster times and providing services prior, during, and after disaster events. There is a need to build capacity and strengthen community level climate change adaptation and mitigation measures to prepare communities for enhanced and efficient natural resources management, particularly food security and access to primary healthcare services as well as SRHR. Reduce discrimination and inequality in accessing care by women and girls particularly SRHR and other needs in non-emergency times. Improve road access to health facilities and ensure that facilities remain functional and accessible to provide SRHR during times of extreme weather.
Recommendations for future research
Research needs to be conducted among different groups of women from diverse cultural and ethnical backgrounds, including those with disabilities and young people, to better understand existing vulnerabilities. Increase research on SRHR and climate change among marginalised groups, as well as comprehensive studies on gender-differentiated impacts of climate change with a particular focus on gender difference in capabilities to cope with climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. There should be more workshops or training courses on climate change and SRHR for general public health care professionals. Increase research collaboration and networking with regional and global networks to increase opportunities for research and knowledge exchange, and raise awareness on climate change and its impacts on health outcomes and SRHR.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update January 25, 2017)