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Health Impacts of Climate Change: Setting Surveillance Priorities

Pascal, Mathilde; Bitar, Dounia; Declercq, Christophe; Josseran, Loïc; Viso, Anne-Catherine

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000362229.25931.73
Abstracts: ISEE 21st Annual Conference, Dublin, Ireland, August 25–29, 2009: Oral Presentations

Institute for Public Health Surveillance, St Maurice, France.

Abstracts published in Epidemiology have been reviewed by the organizations of Epidemiology. Affliate Societies at whose meetings the abstracts have been accepted for presentation. These abstracts have not undergone review by the Editorial Board of Epidemiology.


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Climate change will impact human health. At the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance we assessed if our existing surveillance systems would still be efficient in a changing climate, and if new systems should be developed as risks emerge, in order to adapt the public health response.

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We assessed flexibility and adaptability of our existing surveillance programmes to monitor and detect changing patterns of diseases which are possibly linked to climate change. We focused on risks commonly identified for European countries, i.e. extreme weather events, vector-borne diseases, and long-term environmental changes. This assessment was based on literature reviews, expert judgment and feedback from situations experienced in France, such as heat waves, floods or emerging infections.

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Most threats identified are either covered by a monitoring of the risk (e.g. weather events), of the effect or of the exposure. Effects can be monitored through specific systems (e.g. reporting of infectious diseases) or syndromic systems. In addition, direct reporting of unusual health events by clinicians allows for the detection of unexpected threats. Monitoring of behaviours and exposure is less developed. Complex interactions between climate and other health determinants, as well as imprecise geographical and time scales of climate projections, represent major challenges to assess the capacity of existing systems to cope with climate change.

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While climate change is recognized as a public health priority, the organization of the public health response remains difficult. Many threats are monitored by different programmes, but we still need to strengthen our surveillance systems, to gain knowledge on possible impacts and to foresee which tools could be useful to detect emerging threats. A better knowledge of the exposure patterns would be a key to understand adaptation and should be promoted.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.