Image: Unsplash, Pixabay.com
One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day – November 3rd 2016
November 3rd 2016 will be host to the first ever One Health Day, an international campaign that aims to bring attention to how planetary health challenges are addressed. It may not be obvious, but public health and the environment are inextricably interlinked. The physical environment, which includes housing, sanitation, drinking water and air, has significant effects on human health and well-being. Therefore, effective management of the environment is important, so that potential health issues can be avoided. With this in mind, the focus of this blog is urban air pollution, its impact on health, and how trees could help improve the air quality in towns and cities.
Air pollution in Delhi
In January 2016, Delhi, India, improved air quality on its streets when it conducted a 2-week air pollution reduction experiment, with private cars allowed on the streets only on alternate days, depending on license plate numbers. The idea is not new and has been tried elsewhere (Paris and Rome) but I guess its novelty (“who’d have thought” brigade) to the USA explained why it made The New York Times!
Last year, it was all headlines about Bejing [China] and the air quality citizens had to deal with. However it would seem that actually Beijing’s levels of PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometres in size), a measure of air quality, decreased by 40% from 2000 to 2013, whereas Delhi's PM10 levels have increased 47% from 2000 to 2011.
Delhi's PM10 levels are nearly twice as much as in Beijing, and it has the worst PM 2.5 levels of 1600 cities in the world. Thus the need for the license plate experiment. In a BBC article, you can read more about the reasons “Why Delhi is losing its clean air war” and discover the varied & innovative measures China has taken to ameliorate motor car use.
No doubt spurred on by Delhi’s experiment, a health journalist in Bangladesh alerted the HIFA forum to the equally bad situation in India’s neighbour, Bangladesh.
Photo: WHO/J.Gusmao. Used tyes are an ideal habitat and breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying dengue
Our guestblogger is Dr Manoj Aravind, a researcher in Community Medicine, Hyderabad, India and member of the health information forum HIFA2015. Under World Health Day 2014's theme "Small bite, big threat" with its goal of better protection against vector-borne diseases, he describes the case for community action against dengue in his home state of Andras Pradesh. He can be contacted directly by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dengue is the fastest growing vector-borne disease (VBD) worldwide, and Andhra Pradesh (a Southern Indian state) is no exception. Here, the cases of dengue reported have been steadily rising from 313 in 2008 to 2299 in 2012. The issue of missed cases due to the partial reporting of dengue positive cases by private hospitals and clinics, which are the most commonly used heathcare facilities in our state, make us sceptical of the true burden of this potentially deadly disease. Having a tropical climate, with increasing urbanization, mostly unplanned, and not much “people participation” in health issues increases our cause for concern.1
Mosquitoes are the most common insects today that city dwellers encounter and one species, Aedes aegypti, are the vector for dengue, transmitting the disease to people via their bite: they are day-biting and breed in clean water collected inside and around houses, especially in urban areas.2 As dengue does not have vaccine or cure, the emphasis is on prevention. The World Health Organization is using this year's World Health Day to build awareness about VBDs and reinforce the need for community empowerment in terms of protecting against these small creatures which are a huge threat to the health of the entire community.3 Andhra Pradesh’s state health machinery is using this opportunity to reach out & empower different stakeholders with effective communication and information.
Awareness of people regarding dengue
When there is no biological vaccine for a disease, knowledge of how this disease spreads and how to prevent this becomes very important. It may then be apt to say that health education leading to healthy behaviours acts as a social vaccine.
Image : WHO/S.Hollyman
From guest blogger: Dr Joseph Ana, Editor-in-Chief, BMJ West Africa and member of the steering group of the health information forum HIFA2015 . He can be contacted directly by email: email@example.com
It is right that the World Health Organisation (WHO) should focus on vector borne diseases this year, and by so doing raise awareness, disseminate information and improve, hopefully prompt, more effort at preventing and managing the myriad diseases that vectors inflict on man, especially in the Tropics and Sub-tropics.
Whether it is from the arthropod invertebrates of mosquitoes (malaria, dengue, yellow fever), sandflies (skin and systemic Leishmaniasis), bugs (Louse-borne typhus), and ticks (Lyme disease); or from crabs/crayfish (paragonimiasis) and snails (schistosomiasis), or from vertebrate vectors like bats (rabies, ebola disease), vectors are responsible for a large chunk of the disease burden thathealth systems across the globe have to deal with, particularly in the poorer tropical and sub-tropical parts. There is a popular saying that the Traditional African way of cooking all meals ‘well done’ and avoiding eating raw sea food (crabs and crayfish) has helped to keep to a minimum diseases from these vectors. Snail is also a very popular delicacy which is served ‘well cooked’ for the same reason.
The World has experienced increased incidence of arthropod borne disease since the 1970s 1,2,4, especially in the regions with the weakest health systems such as the tropics and subtropics. But for several reasons the temperate parts of the globe are also affected, which is why it is apt and timely that the WHO is focusing world attention on vector-borne diseases this year (2014). The reasons that account for the global nature of the menace of vector-borne diseases include increased travel by all modes; poor public health practice and infrastructure; massive population increases with urbanization and slums; poor surveillance and control measures; changing agricultural practices and deforestation; lack of effective drug and insecticide control leading to resistant vectors and pathogens; inadequate political will; etc.
The World should recognize, support and assist those countries where good public health practice has shown that control (and elimination) of vectors leads to decrease in vector borne diseases and help to extend such best practices to regions that are lagging behind. A good example of such best practice in the tropics is Cross River State of Nigeria which has a deliberate Public Health Policy of making its major urban areas ‘Clean and Green’ beginning from Calabar, the state capital.