Climate Change And Malaria – A Public Health Perspective

Vector borne diseases are important from a public health point view due to their wide distribution. The magnitude of risk depends on the dynamics and distribution of vector species, which is governed by ecological conditions. Malaria is one of the vector borne climate driven public health problems worldwide. According to World Health Organization report 2014, about 1.2 billion people are at high risk of malaria globally. In southeast Asia, India is the leading contributor of malaria and second most affected region in the world. The recurrent malaria epidemic leads to large mortality, and affects the socio-economic growth of the country. The magnitude of malaria epidemic varies with geography and seasonal variations.

According to a report published in 1990 by the World Health Organization, global climate change is likely to increase the incidence of vector borne disease. To overcome this problem, researchers have explored the association between malaria cases and climatic variables to develop linear or curvilinear relations. However, not much success have been achieved so far. Initially, in India there was a malaria forecasting system, developed by Brevet Lieut-Colonel C A Gill, Chief Medical Officer, Punjab in early 19th century, but has now become obsolete, because of changing environmental conditions. At present there is no early warning system for malaria or other vector borne disease in India to control epidemics.

India is geographically, climatically and culturally diverse, hence there are wide variations in disease burden from place to place. The existing rate of health risk may get magnified with the rate of urbanization and its impact on climate. It is important to develop an early warning system to predict disease burden under changing environmental conditions. Apart from developing an early warning system, we need to control our anthropogenic activities as our future health status depends on environmental condition governed by human activities.

(Contributed by Ms. Preeti Verma – Research Assistant, National Institute of Malaria Research)