Happy New Year to you all!
Following some conversations at the recent Global Digital Health Forum, it seems that there is a crucial area of public health that our sector tends to overlook. The climate and ecological crisis will have - and is already having - a huge and growing impact on healealth globally. The WHO refers to this as the environmental determinants of health.
Despite an absence of political will to take sufficient action in many countries, there is scientific consensus that unprecedented climate change is happening, that it is caused by human actions (anthropogenic), and that it will have a major impact on humanity (as well as causing the extinction of many species). In Cape Town, where I live, there recently was a drought that nearly led to the city having no potable water (’day zero’) and there are climate refugees here (Mozambicans whose villages were wiped out by Typhoon Idai, Malawians where years of drought have now turned to flooding, people from the Eastern Cape where crops have failed).
Who else is working on ways that digital health and health information for all can support the identification of, mitigation of and adaptation to the climate crisis?
I am thinking about health workers and clinics recording data related to climate and weather; health information campaigns preparing the population for health issues during drought, flooding and other climate emergencies; training materials for health workers on climate crisis issues (e.g. cholera for flooding); building resilience in health systems for extreme weather shocks as we have done in response to Ebola outbreaks; big data predictions from climate forecasts, health data and demographics for future needs in response to climate crises, such as increasing specific health care supplies; possibly even advocacy to demand the necessary changes by governments and corporations.
This is the growing emergency of our time, which will increasingly shape public health around the world. The digital health and health information sector should play its part.
Comments, questions and suggestions very welcome.
HIFA profile: Peter Benjamin is SA director of HealthEnabled, South Africa. Professional interests: Digital health, mHealth, Empowerment through health information. Email address: peter AT healthenabled.org