Erin Coughlan de Perez was living in New York City when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.
Sandy was one of the largest storms in the city’s history, killing 44 residents, displacing thousands, and causing billions of dollars in damage. “Being a part of the community and seeing what’s going well and what’s not going well has made an impact on me,” Coughlan-DePerez said.
Coughlan de Perez, now director of research and Dignitas Professor at the Feinstein International Center at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, is leading an international interdisciplinary research team that Find ways to prevent negative health consequences from climate-related impacts. Floods, typhoons, droughts and other disasters.
The group, called the Center for Research on Global Disasters in Climate and Health (CORD), consists of more than 25 researchers and 10 doctoral students at seven universities in the United States, Bangladesh, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Philippines and Uganda.
CORD recently received a $3 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Over three years, researchers will use the grant to analyze large amounts of data and identify pragmatic steps that can be taken before hazards are predicted to reduce or ideally prevent dangerous health consequences in specific communities affected by environmental disasters.
The ultimate hope is to help develop programs to prevent diseases such as cholera, malnutrition and dengue fever.
“Part of the idea behind this grant and what makes it so exciting is that we’re not just looking at how bad climate change is,” Coughlan de Perez said. “The point is not to write more studies to Proof that sea levels are rising or flooding is devastating. This is about helping future-proof health against climate disasters.”
Now at Tufts Sit down with Coughlan de Perez to learn more about how her team will identify intended actions, what role data will play, and how the findings can help prevent human health disasters.
Now at Tufts: What exactly does it mean? face to the future A healthy response to climate disaster?
Erin Coughlan de Perez: This means predicting specific hazards in specific locations and breaking down the links between these hazards and harmful human health outcomes.
Climate catastrophes are terrible, and they take different forms and consequences around the world. First, we will examine six case studies, each led by researchers from one of the partner universities. We aimed to establish three different methodologies.
The first case study looks at cholera and other diarrheal diseases among refugees in Uganda. Floods and other climate-related disasters disproportionately impact these refugee populations because they tend to live in disaster-prone areas with less access to services. We wanted to investigate how flooding affects the health of refugee populations differently, and what different measures may be needed to cope with flooding and avoid negative health effects.
The second study focused on maternal and fetal health in Bangladesh. As sea levels rise, water sources there become salty, which has dire consequences, especially for pregnant women.
Then two universities in southern Africa are studying the links between drought and food insecurity, malnutrition and mental health. Mental health in particular is under-researched. We wanted to investigate what it means to live with a seemingly never-ending climate-related crisis – and how are people coping?
Finally, we conduct case studies examining cholera in Mozambique and dengue fever in the Philippines, both diseases caused by cyclones.
Of course, it is extremely important that we continue to take steps to stop climate change, including reducing emissions and using green energy.
But the project is not focused on controlling or preventing climate disasters. We already live in a changing climate, and things are about to get worse. What we need to know is how to survive and thrive in this changing climate, especially for underserved and at-risk communities around the world. How do we deal with the current situation and the situation 20 years from now? What options can reduce outbreaks and break the link between storms and human health outcomes?