Mapping climate change impacts on tropical diseases

An atlas developed by an EU-funded project maps the risk in eastern Africa of three tropical diseases. Now used in teaching and research, it could one day support models that better predict how environmental changes might impact public health.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


 

Published: 7 June 2018  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
EnvironmentClimate & global change  |  Health & environment  |  Natural disasters
Health & life sciencesPublic health
Innovation
International cooperation
Research policyRegional dimension of innovation  |  Seventh Framework Programme
Social sciences and humanities
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Austria  |  France  |  Ireland  |  Kenya  |  Rwanda  |  Singapore  |  South Africa  |  Sweden  |  Uganda  |  United Kingdom
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Mapping climate change impacts on tropical diseases

Picture of house near the river

© Mirek Hejnicki #290543. Source: fotolia.com

The HEALTHY FUTURES project developed an online interactive atlas that maps and predicts the risk in eastern Africa of three deadly tropical diseases: malaria and Rift Valley fever, both transmitted by mosquitos, and schistosomiasis, which is caused by worms that emerge from freshwater snails.

The atlas presents possible impacts of climate change on places the diseases are found. It uses data from disease modelling and Earth observations, as well as population-level information on background vulnerabilities – social factors such as education level or degree of urbanisation that can indicate susceptibility to these diseases. Users can zoom in on local areas for a more accurate picture of variations in disease risk.

“This was the first project to map the future transmission potential of these diseases dynamically at such a high resolution,” says Mark Booth, who led part of HEALTHY FUTURES while working at project participant Durham University. He is now at nearby Newcastle University.

Model for better solutions

These diseases are neglected in research and data collection, he explains.

“Current maps are based on historical data and often aren’t sensitive enough to predict distribution well,” Booth says, adding that more detailed models could improve public health management.

“These maps show solutions have to adapt to, and reflect, local conditions rather than use a one-size-fits-all approach.”

HEALTHY FUTURES ended in December 2014. Since then, the schistosomiasis tool has been presented to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We expect it to be part of the evidence used in future WHO action and for models of more effective adaptive solutions,” Booth says.

Such was the project’s value that an issue of specialist journal Geospatial Health was dedicated to its achievements. Research partners have also used the atlas to teach students how to think about future disease scenarios and solutions, according to Booth.

“The project has provided a platform for future spatial modelling of the distribution of infection with neglected tropical diseases and how climate change might impact them,” he adds.

Project details

  • Project acronym: Healthy Futures
  • Participants: Ireland (Coordinator), France, Austria, Sweden, Kenya, Rewanda, UK, Uganda, South Africa, Singapore
  • Project N°: 266327
  • Total costs: € 4 161 391
  • EU contribution: € 3 377 998
  • Duration: January 2011 to December 2014

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