Climate System and Human Health Initiative

Disease and climate are inextricably tied. Changes in climate will therefore inevitably affect disease patterns in both natural and man-made ecosystems. Immediate concerns include changes in air quality that influence respiratory diseases and expansion in the natural ranges of parasites and infectious disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks. Relatively little attention has been paid to how the ecology of microbial pathogens and arthropod vectors will evolve in response to global warming. The public health threat from new and emerging infectious diseases has increased in recent decades; studies have already attributed some of these increases to climate change. Surprisingly, very few resources have been devoted to studying the relationship between climate change and disease threats. A major goal of this initiative is to identify areas where early research funding could make a large difference.

Given the current imperative, the mission of the Climate System and Human Health Initiative is to promote the advancement of human health science as it relates to anthropogenic climate forcing. YCEI recognizes both the independence and interdependent nature of these topics and will structure a nexus for research collaborations and discussions that inform the public and policymakers of risks to human health posed by climate change.

Faculty at the Yale School of Public Health have a long standing interest in the environmental determinants of disease, including:

  • Vector-borne infectious diseases such as Lyme disease, West Nile virus and dengue fever
  • Zoonotic diseases such as rabies, Hantavirus, and leptospirosis
  • Avian influenza virus
  • Dynamic and spatial epidemiological modeling of infectious agents
  • Asthma and other chronic diseases with a link to air quality and climate  

YCEI investments in the area of human health include:

  • $100,000 to P.I. Maria Diuk-Wasser for the study of climate change, water insecurity and urban dengue transmission.
  • $86,800 to Gisella Ciccone to develop species distribution maps and predict climate change impact on Tsetse flies, the vectors of sleeping sickness.
  • $75,000 to Paul Turner for the study of the thermal effects on vector-virus relationships of dengue fever.

In February of 2013, YCEI sponsored a day-long forum with researchers from around the country presenting their findings on the Integration of Climate Science and Infectious Disease Research. The recorded presentation are on our website, here.

For 2015-2017, YCEI supports the postdoctoral research efforts of Dr. Kevin Lane, who studies the impacts and proposed mitigation strategies of urban heat island effect in the laboratory of Michelle Bell.  Kevin’s research is highlighted here.