Capacity Building in Climate and Health

A number of diseases with high socio-economic impacts have significant climatic and environmental drivers.  Although there is a wealth of environmental remote sensing data freely available via the internet, these data are not always fully exploited to inform public health decision-making. To address this gap, a two-week training activity entitled “Modelling tools and capacity building for climate and public health” took place at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation Itaboraí Palace in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 20-31 July 215. The workshop was sponsored the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS, WMO), the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and the Science Without Borders Brazilian program, via CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel). The aim of the workshop was to introduce several tools that can be used to access, visualise and analyse climate and health datasets, and to show how such data can be extracted and converted into a format suitable to devise public health early warning systems.

The course was attended by around 30 PhD students, early career scientists and public health practitioners from across the globe, including Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Mozambique, Singapore, France and Australia. Participants were given a range of lectures from expert in the field of climate services, health risk management, seasonal climate forecasting; remote sensing, environmental epidemiology and space-time statistical modelling.  Practical session were delivered using the free statistical software R and OpenBUGS, QGIS and the IRI Data Library.

The participants brought along scientific questions and data, relevant to their own research to analyse during the course. Small teams were formed to develop collaborative projects, which were presented at the end of the course. A diverse range of projects emerged, with topics ranging from modelling the effect of temperature on influenza and non-communicable disease in Latin America cities, mapping the spatial distribution of malaria in Mozambique and analysing the spatio-temporal distribution of Chagas disease vectors in Colombia, to assessing the role of El-Niño Southern Oscillation on leptospirosis outbreaks in Argentina and dengue outbreaks in some Asian and South American cities.   

During the course, participants share photos and experiences on twitter, using the hashtag #climatehealthBrazil. After completion of the course, a selection of participants were subsequently invited to attend a follow-up activity at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, sponsored by CAPES, to further develop the group projects and deepen their knowledge of the modelling techniques that were introduced during the initial training activity. Further, all groups were invited to prepare manuscripts for submission to the Brazilian journal 'Public Health Reports', to disseminate promising results from the collaborative group projects. To facilitate ongoing collaboration between the participants and lecturers, an online team communication platform has been created, hosted by slack, to exchange ideas, questions, code and announcements about future climate and health events.  

Scientific organizers: Marilia Sá Carvalho, Christovam Barcellos (FIOCRUZ), Pietro Ceccato (IRI), Rachel Lowe (IC3)

ICTP local organizer: Adrian Tompkins

Invited lecturers: Trevor C. Bailey (University of Exeter), Caio A. S. Coelho (CPTEC/INPE)

Figure 1: End-of-course group photo outside the Itaboraí Place, Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.