World Environment Day 2020: Impact of climate change on public health

Published: June 5, 2020 5:21 PM

The recent change in natural climate cycle and weather are adversely affecting water as well as food quality thus having a long-term effect on human health.

climate change, World Environment Day 2020, public health, healthcare in India, climate linked health impact,malnutrition, global food ecosystemIndia as a nation possesses an endless variety of physical and cultural patterns coupled with demographic diversity, thus encompassing varied tendencies in the population’s health.

By Heera Lal

Climate change and weather conditions have always influenced human health. The unpredictability of climatic conditions, especially, abrupt shifts of weather extremes change the environment that offers us security, clean air, water, and food. Climate change, jointly with other ecological and human-made health stressors, endanger human health and well-being in several ways.

The recent change in natural climate cycle and weather are adversely affecting water as well as food quality thus having a long-term effect on human health. Furthermore, the effects of international climate change on mental health and well-being are essential components of the whole climate-linked human health impact.

At the social or community level, it becomes imperative to understand how changes in climate create or aggravate public issues. The evaluations of climate change healthcare impact must begin with what is identified about the existing state and examine trends in a wide array of health settings. Additionally, because present healthcare conditions, socioeconomic status, and life stage, all add to vulnerability to climate-associated and weather-linked health outcomes, estimations of climate change health impacts should be appraised by expected variations in these issues.

India as a nation possesses an endless variety of physical and cultural patterns coupled with demographic diversity, thus encompassing varied tendencies in the population’s health. Some significant statistics of health are improving, while others, such as the burden of malnutrition is getting worse. Domestic as well as global food systems are adversely affected due to consistent changes in climate and weather conditions. As per the recent Global Nutrition Report 2020, India remains severely affected by malnutrition, with one of the highest rates of within-country inequalities in malnutrition globally. According to this report, 37.9% of children under five years of age are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively. In India, the report shows that 54.9% of infants under the age of 6 months are solely breastfed. There is insufficient data on low birth weight. In addition to the above, the on-going migration crisis is adding its woes. Severely acute malnourished children are the worst affected in existing times. Climatic changes and poor nutrition support are affecting these severely malnourished children, largely.

However, we are grateful for the efforts being taken in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh. The Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) model adopted in the district is proving useful in these tough times. Energy-dense nutritious food is providing enough nutrition to severely malnourished children in Banda. And, this is how public health strategies should be redefined in the post-COVID world. Banda has not only excelled in tackling malnutrition but also the district administration has implemented various campaigns to address different socio-economic issues such as wells and ponds. This alongside reinvigorating revival campaign, plantation campaign, pro-agriculture campaign, technology & innovation initiatives in order to help out local residents. The ‘Banda model’ has been successful in various aspects.

Shifts in the international climate are influencing the working of numerous ecosystems and their fellow species. Similarly, there would be effects on the major indicators of human healthcare. Population in developing nations may be the most vulnerable to healthcare risks worldwide, but climatic change causes significant hazards to health even in developed countries. Certain segments, such as pregnant women, children, adults, and individuals with low-income status, face greater risks. Unprecedentedly, the global population is grappling with various human-generated changes.

The columnist is Additional Mission Director at National Health Mission, Uttar Pradesh. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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