(Hagåtña, Guam) – Many US-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPIs) are disproportionately affected by climate change. Low elevation islands, particularly those in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), have already experienced rising sea levels and persistent drought affecting access to drinking water, decreased living space, and climate-sensitive diseases like dengue.
The FSM and RMI health leadership and PIHOA have teamed up with the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) U.S. Department of State to building predictive models. Using climate and dengue data, the team will develop and implement early warning systems against dengue for the FSM and RMI. This lead time would allow FSM and RMI to train vector staff, reduce mosquito sources, test insecticide resistance, and perform outbreak-ready maintenance or procurement of vector control equipment and materials.
"The project's outcome aims to give these Pacific Island nations lead time – of weeks or even months – using predictive models, to prepare a public health response to reduce the impact and severity of dengue," said Dr. Limb Hapairai, PIHOA Regional Medical Entomologist at the 2021 Virtual Consortium of Universities for Global Health's (CUGH) Annual Conference.
Dr. Hapairai and other Implementation Scientists dedicated to climate adaptation recently convened to share information and resources to close the gap between knowledge and practice. Meeting participants were engaged in a series of presentations, case studies, and discussions to find practical ways to optimize evidence-based interventions for complex public health challenges. One of the CUGH meeting objectives was to bring experts together to find solutions to challenges faced by climate-change programs using implementation science.
"One of the challenges that we face in the region is staff availability and high-turnover, especially trained ones. Due to financial and HR constraints, Environmental Health Departments do not have dedicated mosquito control programs with full-time staffing. Staff is frequently assigned to activities that are considered higher priority which may limit the development and maintenance of an early warning system." said Dr. Hapairai.
Though the early warning systems for FSM and RMI are in the initial phases, the information and resources gained from the CUGH meeting will be critical for the success of the project. These experiences and projects afford a valuable opportunity to take stock of implementation challenges and design research and analysis to improve understanding of how to design adaptation programs and assure their successful implementation.