Burden of Caribbean climate sensitive disease
Illness due to dengue virus is estimated to cost the Caribbean over US$ 300 million per year. Layered on top of these costs are increasing concerns around heat stress resulting from the dramatic rise in the number of heatwaves occurring since 1995 in the Eastern Caribbean.
In 2014, we, the Caribbean Regional Climate Centre (RCC), hosted by the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, saw this as an opportunity to apply its climate knowledge to support better decision-making in the health sector.
We recognized that part of the solution in bridging the gap between health-climate decision making could be integration of climate early warning information into health sector planning and practice. However, there was a notable gap of operational health-climate information delivery to inform that process.
From concept to reality: early warning information and more
The timely support of the Building Regional Climate Capacity in the Caribbean (BRCCC) Programme, funded by USAID, allowed the Caribbean RCC to invest in developing a climate information tool for the Caribbean health sector. Caribbean RCC staff were experts in climate, but assistance was needed to build knowledge of health implications from upcoming climate conditions. Under the BRCCC Programme, we joined forces with our early warning Consortium partner the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to co-produce the Caribbean Health-Climatic Bulletin. This resource includes credible health-climate early warning information delivered up to 3-6 months in advance.
Partnerships to co-produce climate and health information
We developed and tested several prototypes of the Caribbean Health-Climatic Bulletin with health stakeholders by partnering with CARPHA and PAHO. After several testing sessions with hundreds of potential users; CIMH, CARPHA, and PAHO launched the Bulletin in May 2017. Co-production of the Health-Climatic Bulletin happens quarterly via an authorship meeting across the three organizations, followed by co-delivery through their respective organizational networks.
Cross-sectoral research for decision-making
Currently, the Caribbean Health-Climatic Bulletin offers expert statements of probable health outcomes derived from a review of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology’s suite of monitoring and forecast products tailored to the Caribbean health context. Although we knew that the integration of sector-specific information would improve guidance for decision-making, we had limited experience doing this.
To advance this, we’ve partnered with international research leaders such as the State University of New York, the University of Florida, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for diseases spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito as well as the International Research Institute for Climate and Society for heat and health. We’ve had a fruitful partnership to date on the Aedes research agenda which has delivered a test of a modeling framework for dengue in Barbados that show linkages with drought, excess rainfall and minimum temperature. We continue to expand on the Aedes research in the near future to set the Caribbean on the path to producing dengue outlooks that can be included in the Caribbean Health-Climatic Bulletin.
During the Caribbean heat season, we provide heat outlooks that look at temperatures and heatwave days. The methods that we use in our heat forecasts were also developed under the BRCCC Programme. These form the first proxy milestone in quantifying heat stress in human populations. Looking forward, in partnership with the IRI and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we will work towards regional seasonal and sub-seasonal heat stress forecasts for the Caribbean.
The Future of the Caribbean HCB
Products like the Health-Climatic Bulletin will continue to be a key vehicle for communicating important health-climate messages to health practitioners in the Caribbean. With ongoing research-to-operations innovations with our partners around Aedes and heat early warning, we hope to make these messages even more robust.
For more Caribbean health information:
Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)
For more Caribbean climate information:
Mr. Adrian Trotman is the Chief of Applied Meteorology and Climatology at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, and leads the World Meteorological Organization’s Regional Climate Centre for the Caribbean. Mr. Trotman has responsibility for climate-related issues including climate data management and the provision of weather and climate information and services to multiple socio-economic sectors. Since 1991, he has focused on the Agriculture and Food Sector, with his specialised training in Agrometeorology. Mr. Trotman also collaborates with the World Meteorological Organization through its Commissions for Agricultural Meteorology and Climatology, being on several of its Expert Teams.
Dr. Roché Mahon is a Social Scientist contributing to the work of the World Meteorological Organization’s Regional Climate Centre for the Caribbean hosted at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology. In this role, she serves among a regional team of climatologists, meteorologists and hydrologists designing, developing and delivering climate products and services to the agriculture, water, disaster risk management, health, tourism, and energy sectors in 16 Caribbean countries.
Cédric J. Van Meerbeeck
Dr. Cédric J. Van Meerbeeck is Climatologist at the CIMH. His current responsibilities include developing climate information products and services, coordinating applied climate research and delivering training of professional meteorologists and climatologists. He is especially credited for implementing regional climate early warning efforts through the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF).