Climate change can bring malaria to Britain: report

April 3rd, 2008 - 11:39 am ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 3 (IANS) Frequent floods, heat waves and other extreme weather conditions could have huge health impacts for Britain, including the spread of virtually unknown infections like malaria, said a report on climate change launched Thursday. The report by the British Medical Association (BMA) called on health professionals to take the lead in combating climate change, saying doctors have the opportunity and responsibility to highlight the public health risks associated with it.

The report, titled ‘Health professionals - taking action on climate change’, said higher temperatures and heavier rainfall may increase the spread of infections like malaria that have previously been virtually non-existent in Britain.

Flooding can lead to the spread of infectious diseases and floodwaters can become contaminated with substances including chemical waste, pesticides or inadequately treated human or animal sewage.

Flooding will also affect the delivery of health services and can have serious implications for mental health, including increased anxiety and depression.

The BMA’s Head of Science and Ethics Vivienne Nathanson said: “Doctors and other health professionals will be directly involved in the health impacts caused by climate change. Our report provides doctors with practical measures they can take in order to reduce their negative impact on the environment.”

The report comes amid mounting concern in Britain over the effects of climate change and aims to prepare the health services to meet the challenge.

It said warmer climates could see an increase in skin cancers, sunburn and sunstroke, with a recent study having concluded that the death toll from the 2003 heat wave in Europe actually hit 70,000, double the figure originally quoted.

Heat waves could be a common occurrence by the middle of the 21st century, the report warned.

Climate change will also sharpen health inequalities, the report said. In all countries, it will generally be the poorest people who will be the most affected.

In Britain, the most deprived 10 percent of the population are eight times more likely to be living in the coastal floodplain than the least deprived 10 percent. These plains are most at risk from rising sea levels, an expected consequence of global warming.

Nathanson said the state-run National Health Service (NHS) - Britain’s largest single organisation with an annual purchasing budget of around 17 billion pounds ($33.77 billion) and a workforce of around a million - must take the lead in meeting the challenges.

“Given that it is the health service that often picks up the pieces when severe weather conditions strike, it makes sense for the NHS to invest in preventative healthcare and treatment for the health implications relating to climate change,” he added.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |