Climate Information for Public Health: Curriculum for Best Practices

Laurence Cibrelus, Gilma Mantilla
Date published
Jan, 2004
Last updated
21 Jan 2020


Public health professionals, field epidemiologists, health management workers and health policymakers are increasingly concerned about the potential impact that climate can have on public health. Climate not only determines the spatial and seasonal distribution of many public health events, such as infectious diseases, but also is a key determinant of inter-annual variability in disease incidence, including epidemics and medium-term trends. However, many public health professionals are not yet aware of the ways in which climate information can help them manage the impacts of climate on their disease surveillance and control activities, as well as program implementation and evaluation. Similarly, climate scientists are not aware of how they can contribute to the information needs of the public health sector. Despite the challenges inherent to the multidisciplinary nature of the field of climate and public health, interdisciplinary work and dialogue is necessary to bridge this gap.

In order to fill the gaps existing in climate and public health knowledge and practice, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) has developed a Curriculum for Best Practices in Climate Information for Public Health (CIPH) that offers public health decision makers and their partners the opportunity to learn practical methods for integrating climate knowledge into decision-making processes through expert lectures, focused discussions and practical exercises. Relying on real demonstrations and applications, this Curriculum builds on the experience of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Summer Institute courses on ‘Climate Information for Public Health’ (SI) the IRI developed in partnership with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH), also from Columbia University. This curriculum also captures lessons and experiences from the three tailored trainings on CIPH that have been implemented in Madagascar and Ethiopia thanks to joint initiatives by the IRI, national Ministries of Health and Meteorological Offices and relevant partners such as the WMO and the World Health Organization (WHO).

We believe this Curriculum for Best Practices aligns with that of Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) and Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs (FELTPs) such as these implemented by several Ministries of Health and or local universities across the globe. As developed through Public Health Schools, these in-country FETPs often received initial support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and some of them are members of the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET). This Curriculum for Best Practices also aligns with courses or programs developed by Public Health, Environmental or Sustainable Departments of numerous Universities worldwide, relying either on Web-based or off-line training tools. This curriculum has been designed to address the interdisciplinary nature of the field of climate information and public health, both at the conceptual level, as well as at the level of methodologies and data analysis techniques.