Climate change has been declared the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Rising temperatures and extreme weather events are exacerbating heat-related illnesses, changing precipitation patterns contribute to water scarcity (leading to inadequate access to clean drinking water and sanitation challenges), excess rain and flooding increase transmission of waterborne diseases, and warmer weather fuels the expansion of disease-carrying vectors like mosquitoes and ticks. Globally rising air pollution levels are leading to the growth of respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases. Climate-related natural disasters, including hurricanes, flash floods, and wildfires cause direct injuries and disrupt healthcare infrastructure and access to essential medical services, amplifying the strain on already fragile health systems.
In partnership with Scope Impact, Medic is designing and prototyping a resilience “ClimateXHealth” tool. We aim to build and test a climate and health predictive model of what variables worsen or mitigate climate-sensitive health risks.
Our research has begun in Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal, where the population is vulnerable against climate change-associated flood and landslide events. Medic and our partners are engaged in qualitative research with Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs), exploring their understanding of and experience with responding to climate change-related health hazards, and gathering direct feedback from these likely users of the prototype tool. The study received approval from the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC).
In August, we conducted the first round of 1:1 interviews at Melamchi Primary Health Care Center.
In September, we visited multiple sites across Sindhupalchowk District and spoke to more than 20 FCHVs and 20 healthcare staff and local representatives.
Following the earthquake in 2015 to consequent landslides and floods, many in this community are familiar with the consequences of changing weather patterns as well as the human impact through the haphazard development of roads. There was very little preparedness for disasters prior to the earthquake. While the local government is now talking about and budgeting for future disasters, there remains much work to do. Many interviewees spoke of mental health impacts of such events over the past couple of years, but were also excited about digital tools to assist in activities such as awareness, counseling, and rapid response.
Our collaborative research team is currently working on a detailed report of the design research insights from this work, as we continue to advance the project in Q4 and beyond.