On January 24th, UCI’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences and the Community Health Research Exchange (CHRE) hosted Dr. Sanghyuk Shin, director of the UCI Infectious Disease Science Initiative (IDSI), to discuss “Climate Change, Social Determinants, and the Global Threat of Infectious Diseases”. Rather than discussing how climate change directly impacts infectious diseases by influencing microbial ecological factors, Dr. Shin’s presentation shifted the focus to the larger social and environmental impacts of climate change and the social determinants of infectious diseases.
Highlights from Dr. Shin’s presentation include:
- Climate change has a direct impact on social determinants which fuel infectious diseases, exacerbates existing vulnerabilities, and increases infectious disease-related morbidity and mortality.
- Water sanitation, housing clustering, environment, migration, disasters, conflicts, and poverty are all social determinants of neglected tropical diseases that are influenced by climate change.
- Environmental and social factors (crowding, air pollution, malnutrition, vulnerable populations) can accelerate the progression of latent tuberculosis infection to active TB.
- Climate change’s impacts on food systems, such as extreme weather events, lower nutrient content in foods, and higher food prices, promote food insecurity and malnutrition.
- Malnutrition impairs cellular immunity, which increases mortality and morbidity.
- Among people with TB in Botswana, food insecurity is prevalent and a risk factor for depressive and anxiety symptoms. Person-centered TB care with food supplements and mental health counseling can mitigate food insecurity, which is intensified by climate change.
- Climate change is likely to increase the need for nutrition interventions in HIV and TB programs.
- Climate change threatens those who are poor and vulnerable by contributing to the destruction of housing, displacement, homelessness, climate refugees, housing shortage, and lack of rent control.
- The social and structural issues involving unhoused individuals must be addressed, in order for them to avoid infectious diseases and successfully adhere to necessary treatment.
- The most effective solution would be to protect basic social and economic rights: food, health, and housing. All of which are also essential to combat infectious diseases.
The UCI Infectious Disease Science Initiative thanks the students, faculty, and staff who attended and would like everyone to stay tuned for future events!