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The climate change, water, and health nexus: an interdisciplinary inquiry

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Climate change is an issue of unprecedented complexity and a major threat to ecosystem function, water resources, and human health. Although important knowledge gaps exist at the interface of climate change, water, and health, it is increasingly clear that water is a primary medium through which climate change affects health and that knowledge integration and collaboration are needed to understand and address climate change.This dissertation explores the links among climate change, water, and health drawing on interdisciplinary and ecohealth approaches and presents three individual research papers. The first two papers use eleven-years of acute gastro-intestinal illness (AGI) data to generate knowledge about the potential impacts of climate change on waterborne AGI in British Colombia (BC). Using a Geographic Information System and a suite of descriptive methods, the seasonality of AGI is characterized across BC’s major drinking water sources (surface water, groundwater, and mixed water) and hydroclimatic regimes (snowmelt-dominated and rainfall-dominated). Associations between hydroclimatic variables and AGI are assessed using times-series regression analysis. The results show that AGI exhibits seasonality and that hydroclimatic variables play a role in driving the occurrence and variability of AGI. Moreover, the relationships between hydroclimatic variables and AGI differ in the context of the two major hydroclimatic regimes in BC. These results suggest that future climate change will likely lead to a higher burden of AGI in BC, with impacts mediated by context and ecological factors. The third paper is oriented towards climate change policy and action and uses qualitative data and the method of frame analysis to describe the ways in which climate change is framed in public health and water resource management texts. Results show that climate change is framed in numerous ways both within and across these sectors. The notion of frames and the process of frame-reflection may be useful tools to promote integration and collaboration and an opportunity to foster enabling conditions for climate change policy and action.Finally, through a critical reflection on the research findings and the research process, implications for interdisciplinary research and collaborative action are synthesized and presented.
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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Takaro, Tim
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etd9160_LGalway.pdf 14.53 MB

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