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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Climate change: Scientist formerly at WHO advocates integrated approach

Chairperson of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Dr Soumya Swaminathan, has expressed concerns regarding relationship between climate change and drug resistance.

Soumya Swaminathan
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan

Swaminathan, a former Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation, expressed the concern in an interview when she spoke on the sidelines of the WomenLift Health Global Conference 2024 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

She gave insights into the complex relationship between the two global health issues and called for a multifaceted approach to mitigate their impacts.

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in earth’s atmospheric conditions caused primarily by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, leading to various environmental impacts.

Drug resistance occurs when microorganisms develop the ability to survive drugs that were previously effective, posing challenges in healthcare by causing treatment failures and spread of resistant strains.

Swaminathan highlighted various factors contributing to the rise in drug resistance, particularly in Tuberculosis (TB).

She said that improper prescriptions, self-medication and overuse of antibiotics in healthcare settings were major contributors.

Additionally, she pointed out widespread use of antibiotics in veterinary and agricultural practices leading to environmental contamination and proliferation of resistant bacteria.

On the connection between climate change and antimicrobial resistance, she said that rising temperatures and changing climate patterns could create favourable conditions for the spread of infectious diseases and emergence of drug-resistant strains.

She urged adoption of a One Health approach, which recognises the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health in addressing the challenges.

She said that there was an urgent need for coordinated global and national efforts to combat drug resistance and mitigate the impact of climate change on health.

She called for the development of standards and guidelines at both levels to regulate the use of antibiotics, strengthen healthcare systems, and enhance surveillance and response mechanisms for infectious diseases.

The researcher urged sustained investment in health infrastructure, workforce training, and research to build resilient health systems capable of responding effectively to emerging threats.

She also stressed the importance of domestic financing for health, while advocating for continued international support, particularly for low and middle-income countries facing resource constraints.

By Abujah Racheal

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