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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(9), 1884; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15091884

Impacts of Climate Change on Health and Wellbeing in South Africa

1
Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa
2
Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council and Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, Hatfield, Private Bag X200028, South Africa
3
Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 10 July 2018 / Revised: 17 August 2018 / Accepted: 24 August 2018 / Published: 31 August 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Climate Change and Health: An Interdisciplinary Perspective)
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Abstract

Given its associated burden of disease, climate change in South Africa could be reframed as predominately a health issue, one necessitating an urgent health-sector response. The growing impact of climate change has major implications for South Africa, especially for the numerous vulnerable groups in the country. We systematically reviewed the literature by searching PubMed and Web of Science. Of the 820 papers screened, 34 were identified that assessed the impacts of climate change on health in the country. Most papers covered effects of heat on health or on infectious diseases (20/34; 59%). We found that extreme weather events are the most noticeable effects to date, especially droughts in the Western Cape, but rises in vector-borne diseases are gaining prominence. Climate aberration is also linked in myriad ways with outbreaks of food and waterborne diseases, and possibly with the recent Listeria epidemic. The potential impacts of climate change on mental health may compound the multiple social stressors that already beset the populace. Climate change heightens the pre-existing vulnerabilities of women, fishing communities, rural subsistence farmers and those living in informal settlements. Further gender disparities, eco-migration and social disruptions may undermine the prevention—but also treatment—of HIV. Our findings suggest that focused research and effective use of surveillance data are required to monitor climate change’s impacts; traditional strengths of the country’s health sector. The health sector, hitherto a fringe player, should assume a greater leadership role in promoting policies that protect the public’s health, address inequities and advance the country’s commitments to climate change accords. View Full-Text
Keywords: South Africa; climate change; HIV; eco-migration; extreme weather events; health South Africa; climate change; HIV; eco-migration; extreme weather events; health
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Chersich, M.F.; Wright, C.Y.; Venter, F.; Rees, H.; Scorgie, F.; Erasmus, B. Impacts of Climate Change on Health and Wellbeing in South Africa. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 1884.

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