Friday, January 15, 2021

Health impact of climate change will be earthshattering

By the estimate of a South African expert, the additional health care costs for climate change-related cases of malaria in Botswana in 2025 will be US$13-177 million. At a continental level, Sub-Saharan Africa will fare badly, with gloomy projections being made for the health burden of diarrheal diseases and malaria as well as astronomical costs of treatment.

This is certainly not good news forBotswana which is working to achieve malaria elimination by 2015. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that came out last Monday says that between 2010 and 2050 globally, the average annual costs were estimated to be around $2 billion, with most of the costs related to treating diarrheal disease and the largest burden expected to be in Sub-Saharan Africa.

One estimate of the worldwide costs in 2030 of additional cases of malnutrition, diarrheal disease, and malaria due to climate change, puts treatment costs without adaptation at US$4-12 billion. A good part of what the IPCC report says is a little far down the road. In the here-and-now, climate change is already wreaking havoc on labour productivity, with heat stress causing some in the global workforce to be virtually useless in the afternoon.

“Productivity has already declined during the hottest and wettest seasons in parts of Africa and Asia, with more than half of afternoon hours projected to be lost to the need for rest breaks in 2050 in South East Asia and up to a 20 percent loss in global productivity in 2100,” the report says. Additionally, childhood diseases as well as mortality, will go up and taking time off from work to care for sick children could affect productivity. The UN projects that hospitalisations, with attendant costs, could increase from cases of heat stress, heat stroke, and acerbations of cardio-respiratory diseases and other health conditions during heat waves and from the adverse health impacts of other extreme events.

In the United States, one trauma centre found a 5 percent increase in hourly admissions for each approximately 5┬░C increase in temperature. In 2011, hydrologic disasters (floods and wet mass movements) were associated with 20 percent (140 million) of all reported disaster deaths globally and 19 percent of total damages.

Six weather and climate events that struck the US between 2000 and 2009 are estimated to have increased health care costs by US$740 million, reflecting more than 760,000 encounters with the health care system. Climate change-related alterations in weather patterns also have the potential to affect the health sector through impacts on infrastructure and the delivery of health care services from changing demand. The IPCC says that increased demands for services put additional burdens on public health and health care personnel and supplies, with potential economic consequences.

“Health care facilities are priority infrastructure that can be damaged by weather and climate events, compromising critical resources required for patient treatment; physical damage and destruction of equipment and buildings; and possibly requiring evacuation of critical care patients, with attendant risks for the patients.

Adverse impacts on transportation (such as flooded roads) can further affect access and evacuation. The ability of health care facilities to properly care for the affected and for those with ongoing health issues requiring medication or treatment may be compromised by very large events that affect multiple health care facilities.”

The report recommends that areas projected to experience increases in extreme events could consider additional surge capacity to manage extraordinary events without interruption of service.

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