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The health impacts of climate change
in the South Pacific
Dr Lachlan McIver
Climate Change and Health Officer
World Health Organization, Division of Pacific Technical Support
Suva, Fiji
• Human health is susceptible to climate change via multiple,
complex pathways (McMichael et al, 2004)
• The effects of climate change on health are already significant and
measurable (McMichael et al, 2006), with an estimated 150 000
deaths annually attributable to climate change (Kovats et al, 2005)
• The overall future impact of climate change on human health is
likely to be detrimental (WHO, 2009)
• The effects will be disproportionately borne by vulnerable
populations, both in terms of geography (ie. certain countries and
regions within countries) and society (ie. the poor, children, the
elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses) (Sheffield et al,
Introduction to climate change and health
Hughes et al (2011), modified from Capon and Hanna (2009) and Berry et al (2011)
• WHO: “Regional Framework for Action to Protect Human
Health from Effects of Climate Change in the South East Asia
and Pacific Region” (2007)
• Pacific Island Health Ministers: “Madang Commitment”
• WHO/health sector-led CC&H vulnerability and adaptation
assessments in 11 Pacific island countries (2010 – current)
• National Climate Change and Health Action Plans (NCCHAP’s)
• Align with National Adaptation Programmes of Action, National
Communications to the UNFCCC etc
• Fiji: 7-country GEF/UNDP/WHO Global CC&H project
• “Piloting Climate Change Adaptations to Protect Human Health”
CC&H in the South Pacific
Highest priority climate-sensitive health risks
Federated States of
Water- and mosquito-borne diseases, malnutrition
Dengue fever, typhoid fever, leptospirosis, diarrhoeal disease
Food (safety, security, food-borne diseases), water (safety, security, water-borne diseases) and
vector-borne diseases
Air quality, food security, non-communicable diseases
Vector-borne diseases (dengue), zoonoses (leptospirosis), food security, malnutrition and noncommunicable diseases
Republic of the
Marshall Islands
Food-, water- and vector-borne (dengue) diseases, respiratory diseases, malnutrition
Solomon Islands
Vector-borne diseases (malaria), respiratory diseases
Diarrhoeal diseases, vector-borne diseases (dengue), food security/nutrition, non-communicable
diseases, injuries and deaths from extreme weather events
Food- and water-borne diseases
Priority climate-sensitive health risks
in the Pacific
• Investigation of the relationship between climate variability
and climate-sensitive infectious diseases (CSID’s) in
selected case study countries
Malaria in the Solomon Islands
Diarrhoeal disease in Kiribati
Leptospirosis in Fiji
Tuberculosis in atoll countries (Tuvalu, RMI, Kiribati)
• Estimating future burden of CSID’s
• Discussion of health adaptation planning and health system
governance issues in the context of climate change in small
island developing states
PhD project
Supervisors: Dr Liz Hanna (Chair), Prof Tony McMichael, Dr David Harley,
Dr Keith Dear, Dr Simon Hales (Uni of Otago, NZ)
Berry HL, Hogan A, Owen J, Rickwood D, and Fragar L. Climate Change and Farmers’ Mental Health: Risks
and Responses. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health 2011; 23: 119S-132.
Capon, A., and Hanna, E. (eds). Climate change: an emerging health issue. NSW Public Health Bulletin 2009;
20 (1-2): 1-4.
Kovats RS, Campbell-Lendrum D, Matthies F. Climate change and human health: estimating avoidable deaths
and disease. Risk Anal. 2005; 25: 1409–1418
Hughes L, McMichael A. The Critical Decade: Climate change and Health. Australian Department of
Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Canberra, 2011
McMichael AJ, Campbell-Lendrum D, Kovats S, Edwards S, Wilkinson P, Wilson T et al. Global Climate
Change. In: Ezzati M et al, eds. Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and Regional Burden of
Disease due to Selected Major Risk Factors. 2004; World Health Organization, pp 1543-1649
McMichael AJ, Woodruff RE, Hales S. Climate change and human health: present and future risks. Lancet
2006; 367: 859-869
Sheffield PE, Landrigan PJ. Global climate change and children’s health: threats and strategies for prevention.
Environ Health Perspect 2011; 119(3): 291-298
World Health Organization: Protecting health from climate change: connecting science, policy and people.
Geneva, 2009