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2011 ended in a hive of activity that set the tone for the New Year: Saving Tomorrow Today. One of the most significant events as the year came to an end is The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The main focus of the Conference was the adverse effects of planet change on the environment. Climate change poses an equal threat to public health and there is a need to raise awareness about this issue and develop sustainable interventions to mitigate against the damaging consequences. According to the Lancet medical journal, climate change is the greatest global health threat of the 21st century. The World Health Organisation predicts that changing climate conditions will lead to increases in malaria, cholera and dengue fever, as well as losses of life due to extreme weather events. Furthermore, areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.

This months Bibliozone is packed with thought-provoking articles that examine the effects of development and climate change on health in Sub-Saharan Africa. The threat of climate change to food security and access to safe drinking water has far reaching effects in terms of improving the nutritional status of poor communities, decreasing mortality and achieving socioeconomic targets. The increase in the incidence of chronic diseases that were once rare in Africa, such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, places even greater strain on already low resourced health systems. African countries can ill afford increasing health costs and falling health delivery standards resulting from the impact of climate change on populations.

Can Africa and other developing countries adapt to alleviate the potential impact of climate change? What effect will changes in the burden of disease have on health service delivery? With 2015 just around the corner, what is the role of climate change in hindering Sub-Saharan Africa from making substantial progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals? And finally, what does the future of HIV/AIDS look like in light of a threat as big as climate change?

Climate Change and Population Health: Possible Future Scenarios looks at novel ways for dealing with future climate change scenarios while Infectious disease, development and climate change: a scenario analysis examines the effects of development and climate change on infectious diseases. Africa 2060: Health & Development presents a series of papers that cover a range of topics one of which, resilience during times of adversity and disaster is discussed. It is necessary to plan today for climate-resilient communities in Africa and the developing world tomorrow. Foresight plays a critical role in tackling climate change especially with respect to the neglected issue of public health.

Dr Sibongile Gumbi
Guest Editor

Read more about Dr Sibongile Gumbi and her view on being a futurist.

 

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