Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer

The Yale Center on Climate Change and Health has played a major role in a multi-institutional collaboration devoted to solving public health problems in the Caribbean.

Yale researchers have worked alongside EarthMedic EarthNurse, an NGO based in Trinidad and Tobago dedicated to mitigating the adverse public health effects of climate change. In addition to these principal actors, The University of the West Indies, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and the Pan American Health Organization have also been heavily involved in the collaboration. The consortium is currently organizing its first conference, planned to take place from Oct. 5 through Oct. 8. The conference aims to explore pressing health and infrastructure issues in the Caribbean and communicate key information that stakeholders need in order to take action against climate change.

“Climate change is having multiple adverse health effects in the Caribbean,” the conference’s press release reads. “More intense hurricanes, accelerating sea level rise, extreme heat, warming oceans, drought, and other climate change impacts cause food and water insecurity, hurricane-induced disruption of medical care for persons living with chronic diseases, spread of vector-borne and water-borne infections, diminished air quality, and mental health disorders.” 

Robert Dubrow, faculty director of the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health and co-chair of the conference coordinating group, is one of the principal organizers of this event. According to him, Yale’s involvement in planning the conference reaches beyond the Center on Climate Change and Health. 

The Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, the Yale Institute for Global Health and the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network, or ECHORN, are all supporting the conference. Moreover, ECHORN is responsible for Yale’s previous involvement in addressing adverse public health outcomes in the Caribbean.

Dubrow listed additional faculty from various Yale schools who have served on the committee: Maya Prabhu, associate professor of psychiatry and adjunct of law at the School of Medicine, Alan Plattus ’76, professor of architecture at the School of Architecture and Gordon Geballe GRD ’81, associate dean for student international engagement at the School of the Environment.

Mauro Diaz-Hernandez, program administrator at the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health, was involved with planning the conference since the committee was first assembled last year.

“There is a lot of detailed work that needs to go into planning a multinational conference, and I’ve been grateful to be working with such experienced, invested people at each of the 25+ organizations that are working together to make this happen,” Diaz-Hernandez wrote.

The conference will begin with a day focusing on the effects of climate change on health. The second day will explore the resulting health benefits of addressing climate change, and the third day will discuss the Caribbean’s healthcare system and its response to climate change in order to better health outcomes. The last day will call for “Participating, Representation, and Collaboration to Implement the Research Agenda,” the press release reads.

Several Yale professors will give talks during the conference. The event will begin with an opening address by Marcella Nunez-Smith, director of ECHORN and co-chair of the Biden Administration’s Health Equity Task Force. Later, Prabhu will lead a session on “creating a climate-educated health workforce.”

The consortium is organizing this conference to achieve five main objectives. The first is to create a research agenda that addresses “current knowledge gaps needed to inform policy and practice for mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change as related to the health of the Caribbean region,” Dubrow said.

The second goal is to start a multisectoral group responsible for finalizing and securing funding for the research agenda. Next, the conference will also aim to produce a white paper — a report about the issue of climate change and public health effects and the consortium’s philosophy on the matter — for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 

The fourth objective is to start a conversation about climate change and adverse health outcomes in the Caribbean to inform the public about actions that will lead to progress.

Finally, the consortium hopes to present the results from its inaugural conference to the World Health Organization Global Conference on Health and Climate Change COP26 side event.

“Ultimately what I hope comes from our collaborative efforts is not only an increased global awareness of the public health issues and challenges our friends and colleagues in the Caribbean are facing due to a changing climate, but also the ideas and solutions they have created or are creating to address these,” Diaz-Hernandez wrote. “Ecosystems, climate change and public health issues do not occur in vacuums or in isolation: they are interconnected and require multi- and interdisciplinary modes of thinking to address.”

The conference talks will be in English with simultaneous interpretation in Spanish and French. 

SELIN NALBANTOGLU