Africa summit examines weather links to disease

Thursday 07th Apr 2011 by theWeatherclub

Climate and health experts from the Met Office and the University of Exeter will join representatives from thirty African countries in a conference discussing ways to fight life-threatening diseases across the continent. Taking place between the 4th and 6th April, participants will discuss how weather forecasts and climate science can be used to help limit outbreaks of meningitis, malaria, and other conditions affected by weather. Research has shown that malaria outbreaks can be affected by rainfall patterns, and the risk of contracting meningitis can increase in dusty conditions as these help the disease bacteria to spread.

Head of Health Forecasting at Met Office, Wayne Elliott said: "The conference is important because it will set the scene for the next 10 years in terms of how climate research centres and national weather services in Africa respond to the needs of their health systems and populations."

Dr Dan Bloomfield, who co-ordinates combined health research projects between the Met Office and the University, said: "To understand the relationships between weather, climate and health risks better we need to analyse information from all these areas. The Met Office has a justifiable claim to be one of the leading centres in the world at this, and that expertise is backed up by the statistical expertise at the University of Exeter. Dr Bloomfield added: "We can forecast these risks perhaps four or five days in advance, but we need to look at the best way of communicating often complicated information to rural and undeveloped areas."

Science has given us an enormous capacity for gathering and assimilating information, but we sometimes find it difficult to disseminate the benefits of this knowledge as widely as we should. It is hoped that discussions in Africa will deliver more innovative and effective ways to tackle health risks around the world.