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Health Minister highlights growing impact of climate change on health




On November 28th, during an event in Rio de Janeiro, the Minister of Health Nísia Trindade Lima highlighted the "unavoidable need to strengthen national health systems" for them to be able to deal with the challenges arising from environmental changes. These emerging problems, she added, go back to the 19th and 20th centuries, and in Brazil and other countries, they continue to exist.

"There is growing awareness of the impact of climate change on health in various dimensions. One of these dimensions is arboviruses," said the minister as she opened an online meeting at Fiocruz, in Manguinhos, in the northern zone of Rio de Janeiro (RJ), promoted by the international non-profit organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), in celebration of its 20th anniversary.

The event gathers government representatives from Brazil and other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Chile and Argentina, national and international experts and other major players in the research and development of medicines for diseases overlooked by the traditional drug production system. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 1.7 billion people in the world live with neglected tropical diseases, such as Chagas, leishmaniasis, dengue and hepatitis C, for which treatments, when available, present many challenges, as they cause strong side effects, have limited efficacy and are lengthy.

According to the minister, one of the effects of climate change is the dengue fever, which has seen a significant increase in cases in Brazil, especially since last year. The disease transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito is one of the diseases included in DNDi's portfolio, created in 2003 by national scientific institutions, including Fiocruz, and international ones, such as Doctors Without Borders (DWF).

After highlighting the importance of the progress made in the area of neglected diseases, especially by the DNDi, which has developed 12 new treatments for six diseases, the minister stressed that it was "imperative" that investment in research and innovation be directed towards health systems. "Innovation cannot be seen as an isolated fact. It is the vision of the Ministry of Health and the very reason for DNDi’s existence”, she declared.

DNDi's director for Latin America, Sergio Sosa-Estani, emphasized the innovative alternative model developed by DNDi to cover the gap left by the pharmaceutical industry, which has little interest in producing medicines for the most vulnerable populations affected by neglected diseases. And he pointed out that, within this context, children are greatly affected, due to the few pediatric formulations found on the market. "Five of the 12 treatments we delivered were for children, one of the most vulnerable groups."

Fiocruz's President, Mario Moreira, emphasized that the institution shares the vision of the DNDi, and proposed that a coordinating body be created for all initiatives that exist worldwide today aimed at the same goal: reducing inequality in the access to medicines. "We could think of a forum where we could gather everyone at the same table and get more results," he said.

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