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date: 27 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Climate change is likely to increase drought globally and regionally, including within Canada, by the end of the century. In recent years, drought has affected communities across Canada and can have significant impacts on individuals. Health risks relate to the exacerbation of food and waterborne diseases, inadequate nutrition, impacts on air quality, vector-borne diseases, illnesses related to the exposure of toxins, mental health effects, and impacts from injuries (e.g., traffic accidents, spinal cord injuries). In Canada, the impacts of drought on human health and well-being are not well understood and monitoring and surveillance of such impacts is limited. In addition, important factors that make people and communities vulnerable to health impacts of drought require more investigation. These factors may differ significantly among the populations (e.g., rural vs urban) and regions (prairies, coastal, and northern). Vulnerability to drought health impacts in Canada due to climate change may be affected by: (1) changes in exposure as droughts increase or combine with other extreme events (wildfires, heat waves) to harm health; (2) changes in adaptive capacity due to impacts on, for example, health services from increasing extreme weather events; and (3) changes in susceptibility related to demographic (e.g., aging, chronic diseases) and socioeconomic trends. Effective measures to increase the resiliency of Canadians to drought health impacts require proactive adaptation efforts that increase knowledge of factors that make people and their communities vulnerable to this hazard, information as to how droughts might increase in the future, and integration of this information into future policies and programs. This paper identifies a set of indicators that may be used to gauge vulnerability to the impacts of drought on health in the context of climate change in Canada to inform adaptation actions.

Keywords: climate change, drought, health impacts, adaptation, vulnerability, extreme weather, Canada

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