Universal public health care is well-established in Canada. Therefore, we may only need to modify education, monitoring, or surveillance measures to increase our adaptive capacity for climate change (1).
Protecting the most vulnerable citizens will go a long way in safeguarding the health and well-being of all residents of the Prairies in the future.
Some adaptation responses in other sectors will directly alleviate the health consequences of climate change. For example, successful adaptation to drought in the agriculture sector will decrease the stress and financial constraints experienced by agricultural workers, their families, and associated communities.
Building the capacity to link current climate-sensitive health outcomes (e.g. respiratory illnesses) to weather and climate variables will allow researchers to better determine how changes in climate might affect illness patterns in the future.
Here are examples of research gaps and additional capacity needed to reduce specific health-related outcomes (2):
- Climate-sensitive health outcomes – Additional capacity needed and research gaps
- Drought-related stress/anxiety in agricultural workers – Linking health and well-being to agri-economic and farm employment statistics
- Dust-related illnesses/conditions – Education and awareness for populations at risk; link dust levels with weather variables
- Wildfire-related illnesses/conditions – Baseline incidence and prevalence rates of known health outcomes
- Waterborne diseases and illness from poor water quality – Link water quality, outbreak data and boil-water orders to weather variables locally and distally (e.g. watershed)
- Increasing average temperatures and food-borne diseases (FBD) – Link FBD and food-borne pathogens (along the food-processing chain) to weather variables
- Air pollution and respiratory illnesses – Baseline incidence and prevalence rates needed; connect weather variables and air pollution levels; use of air mass analysis
- Flooding and post-traumatic stress disorder/stress/anxiety – Additional community support for flood prevention
- West Nile virus (WNV) and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) – Continued monitoring and surveillance