To strengthen the national capacity to respond to the increased health risks due to heat waves in China.
Key Health Concerns and Vulnerability to Climate Change
China, with its fragile ecological environment, is vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. In recent years, China has experienced more frequent and higher intensity extreme weather events. Floods, heat waves, freezing rain, snow weather etc which were once rare now happen on a regular basis causing great harm to health and society. The largest impact on health from climate change in China is heat; particularly in urban environments which can change the incidence and mortality of heat or cold related disease.
China experienced extremely hot summers in 1988, 1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2002 to 2008, resulting in thousands of excessive deaths. Mortality was particularly high among those 60 years of age and older, and heat waves present serious risks to infants. It is estimated that the number of deaths caused by the recorded heat waves is 2-3 times above normal summer periods. These deaths could be greatly reduced with an early warning system in place. Heat waves can also increase the morbidity and mortality due to cerebro-cardiovascular and respiratory system diseases.
Cerebro-cardiovascular diseases already have a huge impact in China, with the country having the highest morbidity of cerebro-cardiovascular diseases in the world. 45% of all deaths in China, is due to cerebro-cardiovascular diseases. The health care cost and labour force loss from cerebro-cardiovascular diseases is more than US$2,500 million per year. This burden will only increase with climate change and rising temperatures.
The most significant benefit of implementing effective adaptive measures will be the reduction of the incidence and mortality of the cerebro-cardiovascular diseases, thus improving people's quality of life and greatly reducing the social-economic burden.
Other benefits include:
- Facilitating the harmonization of health issues with economic development.
- Strengthening health education and training on the impacts of climatic change on the environment and human health.
- Increase awareness of the potential impacts climatic change across various media.
Results and Learning:
The project will focus on reducing the impacts of climate change on cerebro-cardiovascular diseases in the three project cities through the implementation of heat wave forecasting and early warning systems designed to protect human health. The project will do this with a focus on the following capacity development:
- Data collection - Additional data collection and research is needed to quantify the health risks of climate change and to identify effective and efficient adaptation options.
- Data sharing - There are still some gaps in data sharing among environmental, meteorological and health agencies. Therefore a scientific research database will be created using national and international meteorological and disease data; this database will provide accurate, prompt, and authoritative disease monitoring and will produce products relevant for disease prevention.
- Communication and Cooperation - The project will strengthen communication between decision-makers and the public health system. It also will encourage and support Chinese scientists to participate in the international activities to reduce the health impacts of climate change.
- Public awareness - There is limited public knowledge of the health impacts of climate change and the actions individuals should take to protect themselves, particularly during heat waves.