Need multi-sectoral coordination to tackle health impacts of climate change in Maha: Experts
Maharashtra has unique vulnerabilities while dealing with climate change given its geographical expanse and hence, it is important to discuss the health challenges the state faces due to climate change, said experts at a conference held at Bal Shikshan Mandir on February 22.
“Climate change has been declared as the biggest public health challenge of the century and Maharashtra has unique vulnerabilities,” said Dr Abhay Shukla, public health physician and senior programme coordinator at Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (SATHI) Pune. All the panellists reiterated the importance of active participation of the community, which is crucial in shaping sustained and locally relevant responses to the challenge. They emphasized that health impacts of climate change are an ill-understood subject, and there is a need for comprehensive multi-sectoral and urgent approach.
Shukla began the discussion along with Gufran Beig, meteorologist and scientist-G, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and Dr Anand Bang, health advisor, Tata Trusts, who together made an attempt to grasp the complexity of this challenge for Maharashtra and the kind of responses it would need.
Dr Anand Bang said, “The agriculture losses due to climate change mean food insecurity and poverty, which are closely linked with malnutrition. Another dimension is mental health burden. Suicides of farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada is a glaring example of this. The climate change may revert back successes of controlling infectious diseases. Diseases like dengue and malaria, even cholera, are on rise.”
While talking about climate change predictions in Maharashtra, Beig elaborated on the diverse vulnerabilities within the state, given its geographical expanse. He also drew upon the close connection of climate change and air pollution, another important public health hazard.
Climate change is likely to deepen the existing inequities in health outcomes. There are obvious inadequacies in the existing health systems. Talking of responses from the health sector, Dr Abhay Shukla said, “We need more resources and capacity building to strengthen the primary healthcare component. The systems need to be flexible, responsive and resilient. It needs to adopt participatory approaches and have robust accountability mechanisms. The climate change crisis needs involvement of experts from multiple domains. Health sector can take a lead role in bringing out coordinated action. There is a lot to learn from states like Kerala and Tamilnadu.”
The conference was organised by Prayas Energy on the occasion of Girish Sant memorial annual event 2020.