25-plus Partners Join Forces to Address Caribbean’s Climate and Health Crisis

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

An unprecedented consortium of more than 25 international, U.S., and Caribbean organizations, including the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health at Yale School of Public Health, the Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies at The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, and the Yale Institute for Global Health, has come together to address the public health challenge of climate change in the Caribbean, one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the adverse health effects of the climate crisis.

The first step in this collaboration is a virtual conference that will be held October 5-8, 2021. Registration for the conference is free and is available here. Simultaneous interpretation from English to Spanish and English to French will be available. A complete list of consortium partners is available here.

Climate change is having multiple adverse health effects in the Caribbean. More intense hurricanes, accelerating sea level rise, extreme heat, warming oceans, drought, and other climate change impacts cause food and water insecurity, hurricane-induced disruption of medical care for persons living with chronic diseases, heat-related illness, spread of vector-borne and water-borne infections, diminished air quality, and mental health disorders.

The Caribbean’s costly noncommunicable disease epidemic – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory disease – is in part caused by climate change drivers. For example, in addition to emitting greenhouse gases, fossil fuel-dependent mechanized agriculture and motorized transport contribute to air pollution, sedentariness, unhealthy diets, obesity, and mental ill health.

The Caribbean region is comprised of some 16 diverse, independent countries and 15 territories of G-20 members, with more than 40 million residents and over 50 million visitors annually. The region has of necessity developed some climate adaptation and disaster response and recovery capacity, but is limited by inadequate access to financing, by weak monitoring and data systems for evidence-informed planning and execution, and by challenges in alignment of effort across such a diverse range of countries, territories, and sectors.

The conference focuses on the information key stakeholders need for action:

October 5: The Varied Effects of Climate Change on Health

Our center has identified the Caribbean as a priority area for our work because it is a climate change hotspot in our own backyard.

Robert Dubrow

October 6: Immediate Health Benefits of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

October 7: The Health Sector and its Role in Addressing Climate Change and Health

October 8: Participation, Representation, and Collaboration to Implement the Research Agenda

Expected conference outputs include:

  • An action-oriented research and implementation agenda to address knowledge and implementation gaps
  • A white paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal
  • A communication product for the public and media
  • A presentation of the conference results at the WHO Global Conference on Health and Climate Change COP26 side event

A key conference goal is formation and strengthening of networks and linkages among participants to help promote action on climate change and health. After the conference, the consortium will work to finalize the research and implementation agenda and to obtain funding for, and coordinate and track progress in, its implementation.

The conference has received funding from The Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund, the Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies at The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the European Union, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, the Yale Institute for Global Health, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Guardian Group.

“Our center has identified the Caribbean as a priority area for our work because it is a climate change hotspot in our own backyard. In planning this conference, it has been a great honor to work with and get to know colleagues from the Caribbean, the United States, and elsewhere, especially my co-chair, Dr. James Hospedales, founder of EarthMedic and EarthNurse Foundation for Planetary Health, based in Trinidad and Tobago,” said YSPH Professor Robert Dubrow, faculty director of the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health and co-chair of the conference coordinating group. “I look forward to the difficult post-conference work of executing a research and implementation agenda.”