TEPHINET Forms Working Group to Equip FETPs to Respond to Climate-Related Health Impacts

Amber Lauff, Communications Manager

The World Health Organization has identified climate change as “the single biggest health threat facing humanity,” resulting in a myriad of adverse effects on human health and global health systems. As temperatures rise around the globe, the world is seeing an increase in climate-related events that result not only in infrastructure and environmental damage, but also outbreaks of communicable and noncommunicable diseases across immediate and long-term time-scales.

Heat waves and rainstorms are becoming more deadly, disease outbreaks last longer and are seen in new regions, wildfire smoke from tinder-dry forests reduces air quality, and food and water security are threatened by extreme weather. A recent study published in Nature showed that warming temperatures are significantly impacting animal habitats, forcing them to migrate to new areas and subsequently increasing the potential for new hotspots for vector-borne and zoonotic diseases.

These realities call for more health professionals trained in detecting and responding to climate-related health threats. TEPHINET, in partnership with the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education, the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), the UK Health Security Agency, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently formed a working group to improve training and awareness on climate and health for field epidemiologists to address this need. The TEPHINET Climate and Health Working Group aims to sensitize Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs), and FETP residents and graduates, to issues surrounding climate and health, increase awareness of available climate and health training and resources, and eventually integrate climate and health into the FETP curriculum and core competencies.

During a question and answer session with working group members, Cecilia Sorensen, Director of the  Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education, stated, “Climate change has been called a code red for humanity. We're seeing impacts happening all over the world on almost a weekly, even daily basis; and when we think about what type of health professional is needed to recognize and respond to the types of changes in disease dynamics [caused by climate change], we really think about the frontline field epidemiology workers.”

Members of the working group feel strongly that the global field epidemiology community should be on the frontlines of protecting the public from climate-related health impacts. They are currently working to develop training resources–such as regionally-specific case studies–on climate and health for intermediate and advanced FETPs. Additionally, the group is launching a monthly climate and health webinar series aimed at sensitizing the FETP community to the different climate-related health impacts relevant to their work. These activities are an effort to ensure quick action on climate change and health on multiple fronts: to develop the knowledge to recognize and respond to climate-health threats; to develop early-warning and surveillance systems to identify climate-related health impacts; to create carbon-neutral and resilient health systems; and to develop effective communication strategies to relay health messages to the public and policy makers. 

The webinar series, "Field Epi Response to the Climate and Health Crisis”, will launch on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 and is free to join. The monthly sessions will take place every fourth Wednesday and feature presentations from climate health experts,  and FETP trainees and alumni who have worked on climate-related topics including heat related illness, hurricanes, floods, air pollution, and more. 

Register for the first session of "Field Epi Response to the Climate and Health Crisis”

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