Vector-borne diseases continue to contribute significantly to the global burden of
disease, and cause epidemics that disrupt health security and cause wider socioeconomic
impacts around the world. All are sensitive in different ways to weather and climate
conditions, so that the ongoing trends of increasing temperature and more variable
weather threaten to undermine recent global progress against these diseases. Here,
we review the current state of the global public health effort to address this challenge,
and outline related initiatives by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners.
Much of the debate to date has centred on attribution of past changes in disease rates
to climate change, and the use of scenario-based models to project future changes
in risk for specific diseases. While these can give useful indications, the unavoidable
uncertainty in such analyses, and contingency on other socioeconomic and public health
determinants in the past or future, limit their utility as decision-support tools.
For operational health agencies, the most pressing need is the strengthening of current
disease control efforts to bring down current disease rates and manage short-term
climate risks, which will, in turn, increase resilience to long-term climate change.
The WHO and partner agencies are working through a range of programmes to (i) ensure
political support and financial investment in preventive and curative interventions
to bring down current disease burdens; (ii) promote a comprehensive approach to climate
risk management; (iii) support applied research, through definition of global and
regional research agendas, and targeted research initiatives on priority diseases
and population groups.