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Fifth National Climate Assessment - Read the Report

Interagency activities inform efforts to predict and prepare for climate-sensitive infectious diseases

Climate-sensitive infectious diseases, including vector-borne diseases (such as dengue, West Nile Virus, and Chikungunya), waterborne diseases (such as those caused by Vibrio species), soil- and dust-borne diseases (such as Valley Fever), and zoonotic diseases (such as plague and avian influenza) pose threats to the health of Americans living at home and abroad. These threats are anticipated to change in distribution and severity as climate change progresses in the coming decades. Improving U.S. capacity to predict and communicate changes in risks of climate-sensitive diseases, including translation of predictions into decision-support tools, is key to managing future disease risks in a changing climate.

In April 2019, USGCRP’s Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG) published a summary report, "Predicting Climate-Sensitive Infectious Diseases to Protect Public Health and Strengthen National Security," that represented the culmination of a series of webinars and a workshop exploring this challenge. The webinars and workshops were led by a steering committee that included members from USGCRP’s Interagency Group on Integrated Modeling and the CCHHG as well as the interagency Pandemic Prediction and Forecasting Science and Technology Working Group.

The report highlights current efforts and outlines a path forward for increasing the U.S. Government's ability to predict, prevent, and prepare for climate-sensitive infectious diseases that threaten U.S. interests at home and abroad. For example, the Rift Valley Fever Monitor and related Emerging Risk Notification, produced by DoD, NASA, and USDA, provide a model for what could be done regularly to manage other emerging climate-sensitive disease risks in the future. The analysis and frameworks represented in the report informed several follow-on activities within USGCRP and its member agencies. For example, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NOAA, and DoD have begun collaborating to develop seasonal forecasting products to inform health decision-making. In another example, the DOS partnered with experts from HHS, USAID, NOAA, State and local governments, and the non-governmental sector to deliver several international information-sharing programs focused on the use of Integrated Information Systems, a key concept in the report, in 2018 and 2019. An Integrated Information System is a framework designed to ensure that environmental, socioeconomic, health, and other variables are combined to provide useful information for early warnings and promote sound health-related risk management.

In addition, in response to the report’s recommendations, and in partnership with USGCRP’s International Activities Interagency Working Group, NOAA’s International Research and Applications Program and the NSF supported research grants focused on predicting climate-sensitive infectious diseases. This research funding was further leveraged as part of the global Belmont Forum’s Collaborative Research Action on Climate, Environment and Health.