i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Space-based monitoring of Climate-sensitive diseases

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 17, 2009

There are certain infectious diseases that are said to be climate sensitive. These diseases are described thus because of the observed change in their epidemiology following the probable effects of anthropogenic global warming.

Source: National Science Foundation, USA.

Some of these diseases represent the common face of the human-vector interaction as mediated by man’s environment. They also represent a huge health and economic burden to affected populations. It is thus important, in instituting control measures to combat the spread of these diseases, that there be a functional understanding of the various environmental parameters that influence the biology of these vectors and the natural history of the diseases that they transmit. Other non vector-related occurences such as heat waves, with attendant adverse health effects, also need to be studied and predicted.

The role of space technologies is very important in monitoring and understanding the influence of environmental parameters on vector biology and disease transmission cycles. Typically, earth observation systems that routinely monitor the environment give very useful data that can be adapted for the study of vectors, their associated diseases and other climate sensitive diseases. These systems operate with sensors located in water bodies, on the earth’s surface, above the earth’s surface, in the atmosphere and in outer space. These all combine to give a continuous stream of data to inform the scientific study of the climate and how its patterns are influencing the spread of diseases. This studies involve the complex task of disease modeling to aid public health interventions in curbing the spread and effect of such diseases. Interventions include chemical, physical, biological and pharmacological measures such as vaccinations, the distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs), use of repellants, drainage of stagnant water, etc.

The advantages of space-based imagery for these studies include its reliable supply of data on a range of environmental parameters such as precipitation, temperature, Vegetation Indices, topography, etc. It makes these data available at varying temporal, spatial and spectral resolutions. Satellite data can be acquired at reasonable costs and much of what is freely available is being put to good scientific use already. To improve access to this, it is important that African countries invest in developing technical and scientific capacity to put them at the helm of disease studies affecting their environment and populations.

IRI/LDEO Data Library

EDEN: Emerging Diseases in a Changing European Environment

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