by Audy Meutia Ariana, dr., MIPH
It may seem that climate change falls outside the health platform, but evidences have shown that these sustained changes in climate elements in the past decade align with an increase in various unfavorable health effects. In the form of extreme weather events (such as floods, droughts, and heat-waves), climate change can directly pose harm by causing injuries and even death1. It can also interfere with human health indirectly in many ways. Communicable diseases are on the rise where temperature changes may affect distribution of vectors resulting in re-emergence of infectious diseases like malaria and dengue, and contamination of food and water sources leads to an increase in diarrhea incidences; non-communicable diseases are also escalating, for instance respiratory diseases like COPD due to hazardous air pollution, as well as cardiovascular diseases and chronic kidney diseases that arise as complications from poorly treated heat-waves cases; displacement and changes in socioeconomic status contribute to the occurrence of mental disorders; and many others1.
It remains questionable whether accentuating these adverse health impacts to the governments can encourage them more to take actions against climate change vigorously, however, it is worth an effort given that these kind of impacts are more relatable and easily understood by people compared to other climate change consequences which seem more vague and abstract. Despite the fact that the recent Paris Agreement on climate change has put more burden on developed countries to take the lead in addressing the issue, a developing country like Indonesia which happens to be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases must realize its share and responsibility to the catastrophe happening. Thus, being more proactive in adaptation efforts through public health sector is a choice of path that Indonesia can undertake.
As a country struggling with poverty, political instability, and many other challenges, it can be seen why climate change does not make it to the priority list in Indonesia. With regards to that, as a starting point it is important to note that climate change affects every regions differently. For instance, the Indonesian Meteorological and Geophysics Agency has observed a seasonal cycle anomalies in 2007 where wet season is shifting forward up to 60 days in regions like West Sumatera and Jayapura, while dry season is shifting backward more than 30 days in Banten and Jakarta2. These longer dry season and more intense wet season surely carry different impacts in agriculture, food security, health, and other possible sectors in each area. Given the circumstances, referring to a study led by Frumkin Howard, a professor in environmental and occupational health sciences in Washington, the public health actions that can be taken consist of: vulnerability assessments, identification of the most vulnerable populations, and a focus on eliminating health disparities3. This move allows a country with limited resources to have a focus working area and formulate specific strategies and policy based on the assessments result. It is expected that this approach will prepare us for climate change and help reduce health discrepancy that it may cause.
Watts N, Adger WN, Agnolucci P, Blackstock J, Byass P, Cai W, et al. Health and Climate Change: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health. Lancet. 2015;386:1861–914.
PEACE, The World Bank, DFID Indonesia. Indonesia and Climate Charge: Current Status and Policies 2007. Available from: siteresources.worldbank.org/INTINDONESIA/Resources/Environment/ClimateChange_Full_EN.pdf
Frumkin H, Hess J, Luber G, Malilay J, McGeehin M. Climate Change: The Public Health Response. American journal of public health. 2008;98(3):435-45.