Climate change is real and is having an impact now on the environment of the Virgin Islands. That is the message researchers from the University of the Virgin Islands plan to present during a live, interactive program scheduled to air on Channel 12 - WTJX-TV - at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 6.
Environmental changes in the territory are expected to promote an increase in the incidence of well-known diseases such as dengue fever and ciguatera (fish poisoning), according to Drs. Gloria Callwood and LaVerne Ragster, and their associates who are working under a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The NIMHD is a division of the National Institutes of Health. Also involved in the effort are the Medical University of South Carolina and the V.I. Department of Health.
Sunday's program - "Climate & Health: New Challenges for the Virgin Islands" - will be organized as an interactive forum exploring ways to keep people healthy amid global climate change, according to Dr. Callwood. "Dengue fever and ciguatera are important public health conditions that regularly impact our communities," she added. "They will have potentially greater negative impact with predicted environmental shifts due to climate change."
"We urge the general public, as well as the University community, to tune in and share their comments and suggestions on our new program website," Dr. Ragster added.
The NIMHD grant, secured in late 2009 by UVI's Caribbean Exploratory and Research Center (UVICERC), funds both basic research into public health challenges linked to climate change and efforts to increase public awareness of the related challenges. In addition to Sunday's television program, the public awareness effort includes conducting several institutes, disseminating information to the media and creating a website to share information. Dr. Callwood is the grant's principal investigator. Dr. Ragster serves as the co-principal investigator.