Original articles

Gathering the evidence and identifying opportunities for future research in climate, heat and health in South Africa: The role of the South African Medical Research Council

C Y Wright, T Kapwata, B Wernecke, R M Garland, V Nkosi, B Shezi, W A Landman, A Mathee

Abstract


Background. A changing climate is likely to have widespread and varying impacts on ecosystems and human health. South Africa (SA) is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, given the projected increases in temperature, and changes in the amount and patterns of rainfall. Moreover, SA’s vulnerability is exacerbated by extreme inequality and poverty. To prepare for the impacts of climate change and to ensure timeous adaptation, a perspective is given on essential heat and health research in the country. 

Objectives. To gather studies conducted by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)’s Environment and Health Research Unit (EHRU) to illustrate the range of possible research key areas in the climate, heat and health domain and to present future research priorities. 

Methods. Studies conducted by the SAMRC’s EHRU were gathered and used to illustrate the range of possible research key areas in the climate, heat and health domain. Using national and international published and grey literature, and tapping into institutional research experiences, an overview of research findings to date and future research priorities were developed. 

Results. Heat and health-related research has focussed on key settings, for example, schools, homes and outdoor work places, and vulnerable groups such as infants and children, the elderly and people with pre-existing diseases. The need to address basic needs and services provision was emphasised as an important priority. 

Conclusions. High and low temperatures in SA are already associated with mortality annually; these impacts are likely to increase with a changing climate. Critical cross-sectoral research will aid in understanding and preparing for temperature extremes in SA.


Authors' affiliations

C Y Wright, Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa; Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

T Kapwata, Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Environmental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

B Wernecke, Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Environmental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

R M Garland, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa; Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

V Nkosi, Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa;Department of Environmental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, South Africa;School of Health Systems and Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

B Shezi, Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Johannesburg, South Africa

W A Landman, Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

A Mathee, Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Johannesburg, South Africa;Department of Environmental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, South Africa;School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(11b):20-24. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i11b.14253

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-12-05
Date published: 2019-12-05

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