Climate Change Impact on Mental Health

January 30th, 2010 healthwiki Mental Health 0

Mental health is deeply influenced by external social and environmental factors. Along with physical illness, it is now well evident that extreme climatic events can cause significant psychological stress with long-lasting effects on anxiety levels and depression.

There would be more devastating permanent mental health impact on the survivors like a child, who has to face the burden of pain and stress of losing his or her family members.

Ironically, the issue is overlooked very often and the effects of climate change on mental health are relatively missing in most discussions on climate change. But experts feared that rapid change in the climate is likely to fuel up the current rising trends of mental illness.

UNFCCC 4th report on global warming stated that there is a direct association between the presence of major mental illness like acute psychosis and schizophrenia in tropical countries.

Extreme climate change events like heat stoke which manifest as delirium and other neuro-psychiatric syndromes characterised by altered consciousness to agitation, restlessness, unconsciousness and even death. Heat stroke has already caused deaths among heavy workers and rickshaw pullers in Bangladesh.

A study conducted by Jain S (2001) demonstrated the association between presence of acute psychosis, schizophrenia, mood disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders with post viral infections which is set to increase with the climate change. Post viral infection is one of the important risk factors for damaging fetal brain in the intrauterine period which causes many developmental and mental disorders among children in future.

Major population displacement after an extreme climatic event would cause social disruption, unemployment, social conflicts, mental unrest and economic burden and uncertainty as we see in Haiti following a massive earthquake.

All these factors are associated with increased prevalence of mental disorders like anxiety, depression and stress disorders. Besides, increase salinity of water in the coastal area would hamper food production which results in malnutrition and child developmental disorders.

The extreme events cause immense psychosocial stress especially among vulnerable groups like children, women and elderly. A survey among Asian Tsunami affected population by WHO revealed that 30-50% of population suffered from moderate to severe form of mental disorders.

Natural disasters have shown to result in increased domestic violence due to frustration and anger. Flood is a common natural calamity in Bangladesh. A study in the state of Orissa in India concluded that mental disorder like depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) were increased among post flood affected population after one year.

Drought is another serious consequence of climate change which causes food scarcity, hunger and malnutrition. Drought contributes to mental agony and depression among farmers due to financial hardship which increases suicide rate among them. Suicide rate was highest among farmers in drought found in an Australian study.

A recent report of Climate Change Cell of Department of Environment of Bangladesh mentioned that the annual incidence of mental disorder was 22431 per year which was higher than that of Dengue (3305 per year). It indicates the need for prioritisation of mental health in the health component of National Adaptation Programme of Action for climate change of Bangladesh.

7 Essential Screening Tests For Women

January 30th, 2010 healthwiki Women's Health 0

Very often, women in Bangladesh present to a doctor’s room when their diseases have already progressed to a grave condition and need aggressive treatment. Sometimes, physicians have very little to do with a woman when she comes at the end stage of a fatal disease like cancer. With simple and inexpensive screening tests, women can prevent a range of deadly diseases like cancer, glaucoma, complications of diabetes etc. and help remain heal and hearty.

1. Breast cancer
Diagnosis in the early stages is crucial for breast cancer like other cancers. Mammograms are used as an ideal screening tool to detect early breast cancer in women experiencing no symptoms and to detect and diagnose breast disease in women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge. A woman should have a mammogram done within 40s. Onwards, they should get an annual screening for early detection, experts recommended. Any discomfort or pain in the breast should be investigated throughly and must not be neglected. Any unusual discharge should be checked out right away. Sometimes doctors recommend ultrasonography and low-dose x-ray can also detect disease at early stage and used as screening tools.

2. Cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is top ranked killer cancer in Bangladesh. It occurs in the cervix, a part of the uterus that extends into the vaginal cavity. Routine screening can find it early, when it is highly curable. It can also find abnormal precancerous cells on the surface of the cervix so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Doctors recommend VIA (Visual Inspection of Cervix using Acetic Acid) which is given free of cost in the government settings and Pap test to screen for cancer of the cervix. The screening test should start as early as women enter in reproductive age. For better protection FDA approved vaccine cervical cancer vaccine is available in our country; it confers immunity against HPV virus that causes cancer.

3. Osteoporosis and fractured bones
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and fragile. It is caused by bone loss, which accelerates in women after menopause. A test called Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) can measure bone mineral density and detect osteoporosis before fractures occur. It can also help predict the risk of future bone fractures. Bone density testing is recommended for all women 65 years of age and older. It is also recommended for middle-aged women younger than 65 who have risk factors for osteoporosis.

4. Cholesterol levels
A high level of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) is a major factor that increases the risk of developing heart diseases. Doctors screen for problems with cholesterol by using a fasting blood lipid profile. Management decisions are based on the results.

5. Type 2 Diabetes
Measuring the fasting blood glucose and two hours after breakfast are used to screen for diabetes. Experts also recommend another tests called HbA1C. If a woman is healthy and have a normal risk of diabetes, she should have the test done every two years starting at age 45; with higher risk, one should start testing earlier and more frequently.

6. Colorectal cancer
The majority of colon cancers develop from colon polyps that are growths on the inner surface of the colon. A colonoscopy is a common screening test for colorectal cancer. A doctor views the entire colon using a flexible tube and a camera. Polyps can be removed at the time of the test. A similar alternative is a flexible sigmoidoscopy that examines only the lower part of the colon. If a woman is at average risk, screening usually starts at age 50.

7. Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a condition that can result in blindness due to damage to the optic nerve. People older than age 50, family history of glaucoma, personal history of eye injury and steroid use are risk factors for glaucoma. For healthy individuals without increased risk, routine screening every two years is recommended for people under age 40. For those between 40 to 54 years, testing should be done every one to three years. From age 55 to 64, testing should be done every one year, and for those over 65, every six to 12 months.