The impact of climate change on the burden of snakebite: Evidence synthesis and implications for primary healthcare

Snakebite is a public health problem in rural areas of South Asia, Africa and South America presenting mostly in primary care. Climate change and associated extreme weather events are expected to modify the snake-human-environment interface leading to a change in the burden of snakebite. Understanding this change is essential to ensure the preparedness of primary care and public health systems.

An evidence synthesis to better understand this aspect was published in Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care and is available (open acess) here.

Individual responsibility: a red herring that lets the fossil fuel industry off the climate catastrophe hook

On the eve of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum, Kent Buse, Soumyadeep Bhaumik and colleagues argue that the health of people and planet can only be rescued through government led, structural transformations—but for that to happen we need to re-frame the narrative away from indivividual efforts.

Read the article in BMJ (open access) here.

COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health

The World Health Organization(WHO) has released a special Report on Climate Change and Health propose a set of priority actions from the global health community to governments and policy makers, calling on them to act with urgency on the current climate and health crises today (11th October 2021). The report lists 10 recommendations for priority action and is available here.

Prior to the publication a public consultation was conducted by the WHO in which I provided feedback in individual capacity (acknowledged in WHO report) . The feedback revolved around the following themes(full submission available for download):

  1. need for developing global, regional and national agendas for climate crisis preparedness, support for more interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary collaboration,
  2. recognition of rights and dignity of health workforce in our path to climate resilience,
  3. greater recognition of the impact of climate change on non-communicable diseases and injuries, particularly chronic kidney disease, snakebite, and cardiovascular diseases needs priority attention.
  4. higher taxation of app-based food delivery business which has higher carbon footprint;
  5. stop promotion of vegetarian diets which amounts to cultural imperialism by suppression of food practices of minorities, tribal, Adivasi and Indigenous populations who are being being attacked for their traditional meat-based food practices by removing words like “eating less meat” & “largely plant-based diet”;
  6. ensure food security of vulnerable people by providing guarantee against price fluctuations through development of appropriate investment and legal mechanisms.

It is pleasing to note that the WHO has involved stakeholders meaningfully and inculcated feedback in letter and spirit. The removal of terms “eating less meat” is welcome, but more work needs to be done to prevent climate action being used as an opportunity for cultural imperialism. Continuing to work with stakeholders to understand the several issues better, as evidence evolves will be key to climate action. We have to grapple the defining issue of our generation together.

Soumyadeep Bhaumik’s review of Indian medical papers—16 July 2013

A sudden burst of massive untimely rainfall and the consequent floods in Uttarkhand last month has killed thousands of people and affected millions more. The good news is that there have been no public health disasters, fingers crossed not yet at least. The Uttarakhand floods remind us that the issue of climate change is having an impact on us now. The urgent need to tame global warming to protect the fragile Himalayan ecology is now apparent.  Global warming will only be accompanied by an increased frequency and intensity of such extreme events, as well as severe heat waves, heavy rainfall, storms, and coastal flooding. A recent BMJ blog asked whether doctors should worry about climate change. The answer should be “yes.” Such extreme events add to the already existing mortality and morbidity of the population, and as doctors we should fight vehemently to curb the figures in all ways possible.

Talking of disasters, the financial sector in India has been hit and one of the factors economists have blamed is the nation’s obsession with gold jewellery. That brings us straight to a study published in the journal Thorax, which found that jewellery workers heavily exposed to cadmium “experienced frequent respiratory symptoms and manifested a marked deficit in lung function, demonstrating a strong response to Cadmium exposure.” With most such jewellery, workers have no or minimal protective measures to safeguard themselves. The study only means that it is time that the government look in to other aspects of the jewellery industry too.

A study in the Journal of Global Health finds that caregivers of children “typically ranked antibiotics ahead of oral rehydration salts (ORS) as the strongest medicine for diarrhoea.” 62% of caregivers in India believed antibiotics were the first choice for treatment. Coming after decades of vehement ORS advocacy, this only makes me depressed.  Talking about depression, an Indian Journal of Medical Research study identified a subset of health university students “with low quality of life in emotional domain,” which could be predicted by their current analgesic use and possible overweight problems.

An important study in Plos One confirms my long term suspicion that the high institutional birth proportions achieved on account of the government’s Janani Suraksha Yojana (which promises cash to mothers for institutional deliveries)  are inadequate at reducing the maternal mortality rate. The study noted that, “other factors including improved quality of care at institutions are required for intended effect.” But with institutions getting overloaded on account of the programme how can quality of care improve?

And finally the National Medical Journal of India reports that there was no statistical difference between the testosterone levels of surgeons and non-surgeons. The study is a must read for those aiming to break into the BMJ‘s Christmas issue.

Soumyadeep Bhaumik is a medical doctor and independent medical researcher from Kolkata, India. He freelances for various national and international medical journals.Twitter@DrSoumyadeepB

Competing interests:  I have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare that I have served a paid editor position in an Indian medical journal before and freelances for various national and international medical journals. No other relevant conflicts of interests.

Article originally posted in British Medical Journal Blogs and shared under CCL