DVRP to boost COVID-19 surveillance through Environmental Health Information System.
DVRP to boost COVID-19 surveillance through Environmental Health Information SystemAdapting to climate change depends heavily on having solid data to inform better planning and decision making. The same applies to flattening the curve and managing the COVID-19 pandemic.One of the strengths of Saint Lucia’s health care system is the little-known but extremely important Environmental Health Information System (EHIS) maintained by the Health Management Information Unit (HMIU) in partnership with the Environmental Health Division. The Environmental Health Information System captures data on all aspects of the environment that may affect human health, in line with the programmatic areas of the country’s environmental health system, including the Food Safety Programme, the Water Quality, Institutional Hygiene and Disaster Management Programme, the Vector Control Programme, the Port Health Surveillance Programme, and theWastewater and Complaints Programme.
Through the Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP-CERC), the Environmental Health Information System will be enhanced by the addition of a COVID-19 Surveillance Digital Data Package and training in the same to support Saint Lucia’s national response to the pandemic. The digital data package provides a comprehensive solution for COVID-19 tracking and surveillance and includes modules for clinical examination/lab testing/outcome, port of entry screening/community follow-up, contact tracing and outbreak line listing. In addition to the COVID-19 digital data package, the EHIS will be significantly enhanced through the DVRP-CERC by updates to the underlying software for the system and debugging of the existing modules.Furthermore, to facilitate longer-term growth and expansion, work under the DVRP-CERC will include development of the optimal system design and requirements for all Environmental Health Information System modules required to support the national environmental health system. This will ensure that the EHIS is responsive to the needs of the current legislative and institutional environment, facilitates data sharing and better supports statistical, geospatial and epidemiological analyses. Earlier investments under the DVRP in a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) will help to support desired geospatial analyses. Why is the Environmental Health Information System (EHIS) so Important?There is a well-established link between changing climate variables, including temperature, rainfall patterns and dust clouds, and health impacts. For instance, in the Caribbean there have been observed increases in the incidence of childhood asthma rates and certain vector and water-borne diseases such as dengue fever and leptospirosis.
There is evidence that changing weather patterns have shortened the breeding cycles of mosquitos and lengthened the transmission seasons of diseases such as dengue, zika and chikungunya, causing the control and management of these to be extremely challenging for the health system. Studies also suggest that climate change poses great danger for the evolution of novel viruses that could compromise vaccination programmes and jeopardize public health. Climate change also affects social and environmental determinants of health, such as access to safe drinking water, nutritious food production and safe shelter.Improving understanding of these connections and developing adaptive measures, including to protect the population from epidemics and pandemics, requires robust databases and surveillance and information systems that can be queried and subjected to statistical, geospatial and epidemiological analysis.
Efforts to enhance the EHIS are being complemented by the procurement of high-end search and rescue drones and an early warning siren. While these are primarily intended for natural and man-made emergency response long-term, these systems will immediately aid in safe and efficient surveillance and mass communication of alerts in respect of COVID-19.