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Global climate change and extreme weather events: Understanding the contributions to infectious disease emergence

This extensive report from the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academies takes on the considerable challenge of understanding how, and to what extent, climate change will affect infectious diseases.

The report provides detailed summaries of current knowledge on diseases such as cholera and rift valley fever. Several pages are devoted to reviewing the latest climate science to contextualise the effect on infectious disease; it also includes several maps on climate anomalies to show how they are linked to disease.

One section highlights methods to assess climate change impacts on infectious diseases. These include analyses of historical records; monitoring programs, especially those that track disease in wild animals; and comparisons of satellite-derived environmental measurements with epidemiological data.

The report concludes with an analysis of the challenges facing policymakers. In many cases, it says, the best public health measures against climate change are those that strengthen health systems in general, such as better training for professionals and better disease surveillance. Policymakers will need to move away from the traditional thinking of individual policies for individual diseases, towards a joined-up approach aimed at tackling "systemic, long-term" stresses that cause a range of effects.