Health hazards and climate change flood risk

The health implications of flooding are likely to be worsened by changing patterns of flooding that are associated with predictions of climate change. Apart from immediate direct health impacts such as death through drowning and severe injuries, flooding can increase exposure to pathogens and toxins; can have severe implications for mental and nutritional health; and can severely disrupt water supplies and health care systems. In developing countries in particular, flooding brings increased risk of disease through the spread of waste and persistent low-lying water creating habitats for mosquitoes and other disease vectors. Floods may also increase respiratory infections, skin infections and diarrhoeal diseases. Risk of infection is greatly worsened by blockages to drainage channels and sanitation systems. Dr Roger Few of the Overseas Development Group at the University of East Anglia is leading a project that investigates how vulnerable populations and health care systems can respond and adapt to the health risks from flooding. The study provides the first strategic assessment of how institutions can adapt to health impacts from climate change. In the first stage of research, he seeks to integrate epidemiological, social and institutional research across industrialised and developing countries that address health, adaptation, and flooding. A pilot study will be carried-out in flood-prone Vietnam to test emerging ideas about vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to health impacts. The work will analyse how low-income communities in the Mekong Delta region perceive, respond and adapt to the health risks posed by flooding, and examine how existing polices and interventions shape the response to flooding within the formal health sector. This project will host a conference to discuss and disseminate its findings, with participants from organisations such as the World Health Organisation; Centre on Global Change and Health; the Red Cross; and the South American hazards research network (La Red). The aim is to help strengthen health-related adaptation at all levels in society in the face of increasing global flood risk.

Tyndall Centre research into the health risks of flooding is the first strategic assessment of the health impacts of climate change. The project investigates how vulnerable populations and health care systems can respond and adapt to the health risks from flooding.

More information
Contact the lead investigator of Project T3.31 (Health and flood risk: A strategic assessment of adaptation processes and policies): Dr Roger Few Overseas Development Group, School of Development Studies University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ Tel: 01603 593678 Other researchers involved in this project are: Dr Franziska Matthies, Tyndall Centre HQ Professor Nigel Arnell, Tyndall Centre South Mike Ahern, Professor Sandy Cairncross, Sari Kovats, and Dr Paul Wilkinson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Professor Paul Hunter, School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia Dr Robert Maynard, UK Department of Health Sue Tapsell, Flood Hazard Research Centre, Middlesex University

Useful Websites
Dialogue on water and climate London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Flood Hazard Research Centre, University of Middlesex Climate Change and Human Health Integrated Assessment Web Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Project duration April 2003 – September 2004

Round 3