OPINIONS

Urban Health and Climate Resilience Centre, Surat (first centre of its kind)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

by Dr Suresh Kumar Rathi

My previous article described the climate change and its impact on public health including a brief about Urban Health and Climate Resilience Centre (UHCRC), Surat (first centre of its kind). This article will put light on the mandate, crucial areas of research, achievements and team of researchers of UHCRC.

Dr Suresh Kumar Rathi (Photo: Ajay Bhaskar)

Dr Suresh Kumar Rathi (Photo: Ajay Bhaskar)

The relationship between climate variability and human health in urban settings are often poorly understood. Generally, the linkages between climate and disease are studied at broader scales which are less likely locally relevant. The idea is to generate city-based scientific evidence on the links between climate change and health, assess local vulnerability to climate impacts and contribute to making urban settings prepared for and resilient to climate induced risks/diseases, emergencies and disasters. Hence to develop a knowledge hub in urban health and climate resilience sharing local, state and national experiences for larger benefit is need of the hour.

UHCRC was launched in March 2013 as the health related climate change project by the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) and supported by Rockefeller Foundation through Surat City Climate Trust in which Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) is a main stakeholder.

Current urban health scenario in the country facilitates higher vulnerability of the cities to impending threat of climate change. Hence, evidence based research is one of the key areas of the Centre with the mission of “Healthier Citizens in Healthier Cities”. The key task for UHCRC is to study the impact of climate change on health and work closely with the Surat city authorities to improve urban health services, particularly for poor and vulnerable city-dwellers.

MANDATE

a) Research (Core Area): Health system vulnerability study, integrated urban health and sanitation service and vulnerability monitoring model, use of secondary data for intervention planning, monitoring and assessing impact of climate change on morbidity and mortality pattern, flood management models, impact of migration on urban health from climate resilience perspectives, community based knowledge – attitude – practices in relation to climate change and disasters.

Current and on-going research:
• Climate change and vulnerability mapping of million plus cities of Gujarat
• A micro level study of climate change and vulnerability mapping of Surat city at zonal and ward level
• Climate change and vulnerability mapping of municipalities of small cities of South Gujarat

b) Documentation: Draft documents such as North zone disease surveillance system and vulnerability and Surat Heat Action Plan are ready.

c) Training: Self-learning Training Modules are in process. UHCRC is proved to be an excellent centre for training of interns. Till date one intern from Environmental Science and Public Policy, Harvard University, USA; one MPH (Master of Public Health) student from Indian Institute of Health Management Research, Jaipur and John Hopkins University; one public policy student of MPH – Health Policy Planning, Georgia University, Atlanta, USA; six interns of Sheth P T Mahila College of Arts and Home Science, Surat; and two students from Department of Social Work of Veer Narmad South Gujarat University completed their training and assignments.

d) Networking: Till date UHCRC is able to link with
• Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore
• Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR), Jaipur
• Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan

ACHIEVEMENTS

• A national workshop was organized on developing vulnerability tools and indicators for climate change and urban health.

• Urban Service Monitoring System (UrSMS) is one of the seven projects selected as ‘Project to Watch‘ from 40 projects scrutinized. UrSMS is the only public health programme selected and is the only programme selected from India. UrSMS is a web based and mobile based system for day-to-day disease surveillance developed under Asian City Climate Change Resilience Network with a technology support programme from TARU, implemented by the health department of SMC (Surat Municipal Corporation) and has a health and climate change oriented analysis input of UHCRC.

• Four Arogya Samvad (Community Health Dialogue Forum) were organized to know the community perception on climate change and health vulnerability.

• Two meetings of healthy Surat Working Groups were organized.

• UHCRC team actively participated in workshop of 100 Resilient Cities organized by Rockefeller Foundation and TARU.

Articles
a) Published in India Medical Times: Climate change and its impact on public health
b) Accepted: ‘Building Resilience to Climate Change and Health: Can Adolescents in Urban Slums Be the Answer’ accepted for publication by Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences
c) In peer review process:
• Temperature and Humidity Variability over Surat (coastal city), India
• Effect of Ambient heat on all cause mortality in Surat (coastal city), India

TEAM OF RESEARCHERS

Six researchers from diverse fields including Public Health, Health Management, Urban Planning and Social Anthropology are associated full time with UHCRC. This team functions under the Health Department of Surat Municipal Corporation, managed by the Executive Committee and governed by the Governing Board. UHCRC advisory committee members are from national and international public health and urban planning institutions.

Conceptually, UHCRC shall initiate its activities in Surat and Gujarat but its jurisdiction is India and accordingly shall take up national level research and training, consultancies as well as has a mandate to facilitate dissemination of research and experience through state, national as well as international seminars and conferences.

The writer, Dr Suresh Kumar Rathi, is an Epidemiologist and associated with Urban Health and Climate Resilience Centre, Surat, Gujarat, India. Contact: rathisj07@gmail.com; Mobile No. +91-9825449480

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