#HEALTH4CLIMATE SERIES | Roundtable Discussion on Healthcare Climate-resilience in Southeast Asia

Extreme weather events brought about by climate change have revealed the vulnerability of health care facilities and the extent of devastation to communities when they fail. The effects of climate change are already felt mostly in countries - such as those in South East Asia - where health systems are weak, and the capacity to prevent, adapt, and respond to climate change are low. The stress that the crisis places on our health systems in turn make them less able to protect the health of populations from the impacts of climate change as well as avoid widening health inequities.

With climate change increasing the risk of severe

impacts on health care facilities and placing complex, multifaceted, and unpredictable demands on health systems, there is an urgent need for the sector to understand and address the vulnerabilities of our health systems and take action to improve their resilience to climate changes. Health systems need to be increasingly fortified and continue to be efficient, responsive, and sustainable in protecting the health of our population, despite the shocks and stresses they may face. In addition to being responsive through the course of extreme weather events and climate-related disasters, health facilities also need to consider their function as providers of energy, shelter, water, and food for displaced members of their community.

In July 15, 2022, through the 2nd session of the #Health4Climate Learning Series entitled "Regional Roundtable Discussion on Healthcare Climate-resilience in Southeast Asia", we were able to gather 70 attendees composed of policymakers, ministries of health, hospital management, climate-vulnerable communities and clinicians from around the region in an aim to foster opportunities and sharing of policies, tools, experience, and learnings on building climate resilience in the health sector.

The event was moderated by Dr. Alfredo Lorenzo Sablay, who is a member of RISE Philippines. First to speak was Dr. Vishvaja Sambath, the Public Health Researcher of Healthy Energy Initiative in India. Her topic was on, “Health sector resilience in a changing climate: what it means for developing countries and how do we get there?” Her presentation was rooted from their experience and learnings from the Kerala floods in August 2018, which demonstrated the effectiveness of their planning, training, and decentralizing its administrative and emergency response, and preparing Pozhuthana Family Health Center for future floods using those learnings. She also discussed the role of the health care workforce.

Next were ​​case study presentations of climate-vulnerable health care facilities and how they strengthened their adaptive capacity to climate change led by Dr. Jillian Lee and Dr. Nanette P. Franco, MD, FPARM, MSHSM, FPCHA. Dr. Lee is the former Provincial Health Officer of Dinagat Islands and she discussed the adaptation and mitigation actions that they implemented in their area, which is highly vulnerable to disasters due to their geographical location, poor healthcare infrastructure, climate change, and human activity, like mining. Dr. Franco, the CEO and Medical Director of Dr. Arturo P. Pingoy Medical Center discussed their problem with the energy supply and cost and how they transitioned to become more digital and green.

The participants were divided into 3 breakout rooms for 2 sessions. The first session asked the participants “What are the three most important characteristics of a climate-resilient facility?” and “what are the social, economic, environmental, and political factors that hinder a climate-resilient health facility from becoming a reality?”.

When the participants returned to the main room, there was a plenary session with representatives from Ministries of Health from South East Asia. From the Ministry of Health in Indonesia, we had Dr. Damayanti Siahaan, the Directorate Environmental Health. From the Department of Health of the Philippines, we had Dr. Ronald Law, the Chief of Preparedness of the Health Emergency Management Bureau, who discussed climate change and health initiatives in the country. Finally from the Ministry of Health in Vietnam, we had Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga, the Former Director-General of VIHEMA, currently the Head of Center for Health Environment Research and Development (CHERAD).

The second session for the breakout rooms began and this time, participants were asked the following questions: What policies, processes, mechanisms, and/or tools are needed by health systems to become climate-resilient and support health facility resilience? How does climate-resilient health care contribute to achieving health equity?

The outputs of the breakout sessions have been processed and can be viewed here.

The session ended with a synthesis from Jit Sohal showing the visual summary of the first breakout session designed by Aaron Bonete. Feel free to re-share the post about it here.###