Amir Sapkota to Lead Multinational Consortium to Reduce Climate Change-Related Diarrheal Disease Burden in Asia-Pacific Region
June 8, 2020

A new multinational consortium of scientists, led by Professor Amir Sapkota, in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, is developing innovative solutions to reduce the burden of diarrheal disease caused by extreme weather events in Taiwan, India, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam and Indonesia. The work is funded by a National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant to the University of Maryland School of Public Health as a part of the Belmont Forum’s Climate, Environment and Health challenge.

Communities in the Asia-Pacific region experience one of the highest rates of diarrheal disease morbidity and mortality in the world, even while the overall global incidence of diarrheal disease cases has declined. These communities are also impacted by climate change-driven extreme temperature and precipitation events—which are linked with increases in diarrheal disease burden. As the frequency of extreme weather events continues to rise as a consequence of climate change, community-specific early warnings are needed to inform adaptation strategies. 

This effort is undermined because weather-based warnings (typically 7-10 day lead time) do not provide public health authorities enough time to prepare, while the climate-based warnings with 50 to 100 year lead times are too distant on the horizon to inform ongoing adaptation strategies. 

To address this challenge, the international consortium aims to 1) identify sociodemographic differences in risk of diarrheal disease associated with extreme weather events in each country; 2) develop location-specific early warnings for diarrheal disease with seasonal to sub-season lead time; 3) partner with local stakeholders to reduce the burden of extreme weather event-related diarrheal disease, and thus enhance community resilience to climate change.

The consortium members from each country plan to partner with their respective local, regional, and national public health organizations, NGOs, governmental and community organizations to incorporate their early warning system and risk maps in local adaptation strategies. Their work will help Ministries of Health train and effectively mobilize community health workers and female community health volunteers (FCHVs). Dr. Muhiuddin Haider, a clinical professor of global health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health with decades of health communication experience in low-and middle-income country settings, will lead the consortium in creating culturally competent community-level communication initiatives.

In addition to principal investigator Dr. Amir Sapkota, and health communication expert Dr. Haider, individual members of the consortium include Dr. Murtugudde (also at UMD, US); Drs. Chuansi Gao and Karin Lundgren-Kownacki (Sweden); Drs. Yu-Chun Wang and Kung-Yueh Camyale Chao (Taiwan); Dr. Cunrui Huang (China); Drs. Dang Thi Anh Thu and Tran Ngoc Dang (Vietnam); Drs. Veena Iyer (India) and Sambuddha Chaudhuri (India); Dr. Meghnath Dhimal (Nepal); and Drs. Rahman and Shomik (Bangladesh). 

Dr. Amir Sapkota’s research focuses on the impacts of climate change on human health and the cardiopulmonary health effects of combustion-related air pollutants. He has received multiple grant applications to study underlying population vulnerability to climate change.

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