Climate change impacts health through both direct and indirect pathways, Kelly Willis, Managing Director of Forecasting Healthy Futures, told Report.

She said directly, extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves lead to injuries, deaths, and displacement of communities.

“These events also exacerbate existing health conditions, particularly non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, due to increased heat and air pollutants,” she noted.

Willis added that changing weather patterns affect the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases (IDs).

“For example, warmer temperatures can expand the range of disease vectors like mosquitoes, increasing the incidence of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Zika virus. Melting ice caps and warming oceans are also introducing novel pathogens to human populations, posing new health risks. Indirectly, climate change disrupts food systems, leading to malnutrition and food insecurity as agricultural productivity declines. The salination of freshwater sources threatens access to clean drinking water and water for agriculture, contributing to a range of health issues including waterborne diseases and dehydration. The loss of livelihoods due to climate-related disruptions can impact mental health, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and depression,” she said.

Speaking about the upcoming COP29 to be held in Baku in November, Willis noted that Forecasting Healthy Futures, together with global health organizations and leaders, has been advocating for the integration of health into climate negotiations, emphasizing that climate change is the single greatest threat facing public health worldwide.

She believes that the inclusion of health in COP discussions can also directly optimize funding to build climate-resilient health systems, ensuring that healthcare infrastructure can withstand and respond to the challenges posed by climate change.