McGill Mini-Science 2016: How can we adapt to climate change?

I was pleased to be selected as one of the speakers for McGill’s Mini-Science 2016: Weather and Climate: Going to Extremes. My lecture focused on the widely held recognition that the global climate is changing and that societies will need to adapt.

Using results obtained through the IHACC and TRAC3 projects (1: Ford, Berrang-Ford; 2: Lesnikowsk, Ford, Biesbroek, Berrang-Ford, Heymann), my lecture explored the implications of the dispersion of global funds to support adaptation. With $20-64 billion in fast-tracked funding already being invested, the 2015 Paris Agreement will increase this amount to $100 billion annually by 2020. Canada is among the largest adaptation donors to these funds. This growth in global finance for adaptation underscores the urgency with which to understand how and where adaptation is needed and is feasible, and monitor the use of adaptation funds. Are we adapting, to what, and how? This presentation will explore the challenge of global human adaptation to climate change, and explore efforts and opportunities to systematically track and evaluate progress on adaptation policy and practice.

You can watch the entire lecture for free here:

1: “Adaptation tracking for a post-2015 climate agreement.” J.D. Ford, L. Berrang-Ford, R. Biesbroek, M. Araos, S.E. Austin and A. Lesnikowski. Nature Climate Change 5:967-69 (23 October 2015). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2744

2: “National-level progress on adaptation.” Alexandra Lesnikowski, James Ford, Robbert Biesbroek, Lea Berrang-Ford & S. Jody Heymann. Nature Climate Change (09 November 2015 ). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2863

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Lab Member Isha Berry Publishes in Social Science & Medicine!

I am pleased to congratulate lab member Isha Berry on her recent publication in Social Science & Medicine! The article, entitled Leishmaniasis, conflict, and political terror: A spatio-temporal analysis, examines Leishmaniasis’ relationship to terror or political conflict. Isha’s study joins some of the few key quantitative examinations as to how Leishmaniasis coincides with conflict or political terror.

Currently pursuing graduate studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, this study is one of the great to come from Isha. You can find the article here:

Full citation:
Berry, I., & Berrang-Ford, L. (May 01, 2016). Leishmaniasis, conflict, and political terror: A spatio-temporal analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 1.)

Preview to the online edition of Isha's article

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Congratulations to Blanaid Donnelly for a successful PhD defense!

The lab is pleased to announce that Blanaid Donnelly successfully defended her PhD thesis this past week. Congratulations to Blanaid! Our lab network has one more alumni, and we look forward to supporting you in your next endeavour.

Blanaid’s thesis is titled, “Livestock livelihoods and Indigenous health vulnerability in Kanungu District, Uganda.” Blanaid has two articles published, and two more in preparation.

Blanaid’s past publications include Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasitaemia among indigenous Batwa and non-indigenous communities of Kanungu district, Uganda and A systematic, realist review of zooprophylaxis for malaria control.

Summer plans for the lab are quite exciting and we could not have had a better start! Again, congratulations to Blanaid!

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New paper led by IHACC student Sierra Clark on longitudinal analysis of mosquito net ownership and use in an Indigenous Batwa Population after a targeted distribution published in PLoS ONE

A new IHACC article on mosquito net retention among Batwa was recently published in PLoS ONE. Using a longitudinal approach, Clark et al. 2016 explored the rate of mosquito net retention after an IHACC targeted distribution event among 10 Batwa communities in Kanungu District southwestern Uganda. The results indicate that net non-ownership was high among the Batwa, particularly within the first 3-months following the distribution. Mass targeted distribution campaigns aim to reduce inequities in mosquito net ownership among different socio-economic groups. However, our data showed that amongst the Batwa, household socio-economic status determined retention of nets after the distribution and inequities in ownership increased over-time, disadvantaging the poorest households. This research implies that retention of freely distributed LLINs, particularly for impoverished populations, may remain subject to patterning by socioeconomic gradients. More effective longitudinal monitoring and evaluation programs are needed to assess the long-term impact of free LLIN distributions, particularly among the most vulnerable populations.

The article can be viewed at:

Clark S, Berrang-Ford L, Lwasa S, Namanya D, Twesigomwe S, IHACC Research Team, et al. (2016) A Longitudinal Analysis of Mosquito Net Ownership and Use in an Indigenous Batwa Population after a Targeted Distribution. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0154808. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154808

Preview of the article from the PLoS ONE site!

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IHACC team in Montreal March 8-9 to develop IHACC2 project proposal

Members of the IHACC team were in Montreal last week to work on developing a project proposal for phase two of the IHACC project, planning for another five years of work as phase one comes to an end this year. Team members from Canada, Uganda and South Africa were at the table at the McGill Faculty Club in this first meeting of the proposal development stage, including Dr. James Ford and Dr. Lea Berrang-Ford, Dr. Sherilee Harper, Dr. Shuaib Lwasa, Dr. Mark New, Mr. Didacus Namanya, and Ms. Michelle Maillet. Canadian team members will soon head to Peru to meet with the team there and work on finalizing the proposal later this spring. Keep an eye out for more news on plans for phase two of the project as the team continues to build the proposal.

Team gathers for a discussion on IHACC2

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Carol Zavaleta, MD, Shares Insights After Returning From Peru Fieldwork

Carol is excited to share her field report about her two trips to Peru where she worked with the Shawi Amazon Indigenous People. The two trips completed the necessary fieldwork required for Carol’s PhD thesis. For those of you unfamiliar with Carol’s work, her thesis investigates the current vulnerability of Shawi Amazon Indigenous people to food insecurity in order to identify potential adaption interventions that might mitigate risks to climate change.

Carol’s field report touches on a variety of pertinent discussions surrounding the appropriate conducting of fieldwork, including connecting with communities, creating meaningful relationships with guides, and incorporating members of the indigenous community into the research process.

Carol’s field report also offers personal insights. As a Peruvian Medical Doctor, she could not close her eyes “to the reality of indigenous health systems” and feels that the field work was essential in evolving her “perspectives about individual and collective Indigenous well-being.”

You can read the full field report here: Carol’s Field Report.

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Malcom Araos and Stephanie Austin publish article in the International Journal of Health Services

TRAC3 lab members Malcom Araos and Stephanie Austin have published a new article in the International Journal of Health Services (IJHS). Entitled “Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change in Large Cities: A Global Baseline”, the authors “develop and apply systematic methods to assess the state of public health adaptation in 401 urban areas globally with more than 1 million people, creating the first global baseline for urban public health adaptation.”

Initial findings are exciting and encourage further research – they found “that only 10% of the sampled urban areas report any public health adaptation initiatives.”

The article is located here.

Please contact Malcom Aaros ( or Stephanie Austin ( with with questions about their work.

Malcolm Araos, Stephanie E. Austin, Lea Berrang-Ford, and James D. Ford. Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change in Large Cities: A Global Baseline. Int J Health Serv 0020731415621458, first published on December 24, 2015 doi:10.1177/0020731415621458

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IHACC Student Sierra Clark Receives McGill Global Health Award

IHACC student Sierra Clark received one of two Norman Bethune Awards for Global Health at Global Health Night on November 3rd. Sierra’s current research examines cardiovascular impacts of indoor air pollution and success of improved cook stove interventions to reduce exposure. This award will help Sierra to conduct field research in rural areas of China. Congratulations Sierra!

Established in 2015, the Dr. Norman Bethune award is awarded annually to a McGill Graduate Student or Postdoctoral Fellow (Faculty of Medicine) to support travel for research projects or clinical electives in a low-resource (international or northern Canada) setting. Dr. Norman Bethune (a Royal Victoria Hospital physician) was known due to his selfless acts to bring modern medicine to rural China in the midst of the Second Sino-Japanese war. Current students dedicated to making an impact in the global health are encouraged to apply for this prestigious award.

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Students attend Canadian Conference on Global Health

November 5-7th lab members Margot Charette and Sarah MacVicar attended the Canadian Conference on Global Health here in Montreal. They each presented posters on their master’s research with IHACC, Margot on her study of environmental drivers of dengue in Ucayali, Peru, and Sarah on her modelling of the effects of weather on birth size in Kanungu District, Uganda. University of Guelph IHACC affiliates Kaitlin Patterson and Rebecca Wolff also had posters on display at the conference, with Rebecca’s winning the conference prize for “Best Contribution to Global Health”.

Margot’s innovative poster was rewarded with the Hillman Prize for Best Student Poster. Congratulations Margot!

The conference theme this year was on capacity building, which is high relevant to IHACC’s work around the world. Here are some of Sarah’s reflections on the event:

Our three days at this year’s Canadian Conference on Global Health have left us overflowing with new ideas and inspired by the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of all delegates. Though we may differ in roles and approaches, it was clear that everyone at the conference was working towards a common goal: building a future with better health for all.

Some of the most powerful sessions of the conference were those examining ethical practices and power dynamics in global health. These sessions posed some of the most challenging questions we face as researchers: how do we build authentic partnerships? How can we challenge the false dichotomy dividing North from South? What can we do in our everyday practice to decolonize the academy?

There is a large appetite for these conversations: the workshop on power, privilege, and inclusion in global health saw some of the highest attendance and engagement of the entire conference. I am hopeful that these discussions will become a central theme in future conferences as we learn to better evaluate our motives and methods. Keeping this in mind is essential to ensure that not only are we “doing no harm”, but that we are promoting resilience, autonomy, and local capacity in all that we do.

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Sarah MacVicar presents at GMNHC 2015

Berrang Ford lab member Sarah MacVicar recently returned from presenting her research at the Global Maternal and Newborn Health Conference (October 18th-21st). This conference drew researchers and practitioners from around the globe to Mexico City, a conference site selected due to the impressive strides Mexico has made in advancing maternal and newborn health. Sarah’s abstract was selected from over 2700 submissions for a poster presentation in which she outlined some of the early findings from her research on birth outcomes and climate change in Kanungu District.

The timing of the conference is noteworthy considering the recent passing of the Sustainable Development Goals, and it served as a platform not only for the presentation of novel epidemiological and clinical research, but also as an opportunity for maternal and newborn health agenda setting. Three key themes were highlighted as ongoing priorities in the field: monitoring and evaluation of quality of care, better integration of care, and equitable coverage to help the most vulnerable mothers and babies.

Mexico City

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