Climate change and vector-borne diseases: what are the implications for public health research and policy?

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2015 Apr 5;370(1665):20130552. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0552.


Vector-borne diseases continue to contribute significantly to the global burden of disease, and cause epidemics that disrupt health security and cause wider socioeconomic impacts around the world. All are sensitive in different ways to weather and climate conditions, so that the ongoing trends of increasing temperature and more variable weather threaten to undermine recent global progress against these diseases. Here, we review the current state of the global public health effort to address this challenge, and outline related initiatives by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners. Much of the debate to date has centred on attribution of past changes in disease rates to climate change, and the use of scenario-based models to project future changes in risk for specific diseases. While these can give useful indications, the unavoidable uncertainty in such analyses, and contingency on other socioeconomic and public health determinants in the past or future, limit their utility as decision-support tools. For operational health agencies, the most pressing need is the strengthening of current disease control efforts to bring down current disease rates and manage short-term climate risks, which will, in turn, increase resilience to long-term climate change. The WHO and partner agencies are working through a range of programmes to (i) ensure political support and financial investment in preventive and curative interventions to bring down current disease burdens; (ii) promote a comprehensive approach to climate risk management; (iii) support applied research, through definition of global and regional research agendas, and targeted research initiatives on priority diseases and population groups.

Keywords: climate change; health policy; research; vector-borne disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Climate Change*
  • Communicable Diseases / transmission*
  • Disease Vectors*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Public Health Administration*