Capacity Development of the Scientific Community for Assessing the Health Impacts of Climate Change :: Introduction

It is a widely known and quite well understood fact that human health depends, essentially, on the conditions of social and natural environment. For it is the adequacy and flow of materials and services from the natural world that determines, the limits and characteristics, of the well being and health of a population.

Over the ages human societies have degraded or changed local ecosystems. Today, this burgeoning human impact on the environment has attained a global scale. Populations from around the world are now encountering unfamiliar human induced changes in atmosphere, ozone depletion, land degradation, freshwater reduction and biodiversity loss.

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While climate change affects multiple sectors, the effects on health are the only ones that pose a serious threat to long term sustainable development. However, in spite of this the area of Climate Change and Human Health is relatively under-developed as a formal research arena.

Understanding the effects of climate change on human health is the first step towards taking effective action for keeping these to a minimum. The capacity to respond to the negative health effects of climate change relies on the generation of reliable, relevant, and up-to-date information pertaining to specific regions, countries, and localities, which is not yet available for developing countries. Of the 16 National Health Impact Assessments of Climate Change done between 2001 and 2007 only five were in countries of the developing world ó India, Bolivia, Panama, Bhutan, and Tajikistan.

In Pakistan, as in other developing countries, apart from a dedicated few, health professionals have not come to the climate change debate. This project aims at bringing a change in the status quo by strengthening capacities for research on negative health effects of climate change. Implemented by LEAD Pakistan, through financial assistance provided by Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN), the project is based on the premises that, the educational and scientific base of Pakistan will have a direct bearing in increasing or constraining its capacity to adapt.

In line with the given philosophy, the present project will be undertaking capacity-building activities to improve the ability of those from Pakistanís health related scientific community to interpret the information available about climate change and to understand climate related risks and vulnerabilities to human health. This will in turn enable these experts to conduct much-needed vulnerability and impact assessments in the said area, which will form the basis for planning on appropriate adaptation strategies.

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