Exploring the association of mortality and weather in rural Bangladesh

Sarah Moody one of our Visiting Researchers shares her story.

In 2017 I began a bachelors of science in Global Health at Imperial College London, this was my first academic venture into the wider determinants of health.  At Imperial I was introduced to the impacts of climate change on health in some initial lectures.  These sparked my interest, so that when it came to selecting the topic for my Bsc project, I decided to choose one that offered the opportunity to look at climate change and health in Bangladesh.  My supervisor had established relationships between ICCCAD, ICDDR,B and Imperial.  ICCCAD kindly helped and offered advice on many of the practical arrangements of the trip.

Fast forwarding to my travel to Bangladesh, I arrived from an 18 hour flight into Dhaka, met my taxi and headed to my accommodation for the duration of the trip.  I stayed in a room under the ownership of the Bangladesh Language Institute (BLI) who are in close contact with ICCCAD, both are members of the Independent University.  The accommodation in Bashundhara, Dhaka was ideal; spacious and relatively quiet, and I really appreciated the air conditioning after my first dip into the heat of Bangladesh!  The staff were welcoming and incredibly attentive.  We had fun playing darts together in the lounge, along with other researchers staying in the accommodation.

Aid Information Management System (AIMS) Dinner event

In the UK I conducted a literature search to narrow down the field of study of “health” and “climate” but it was only when I conducted academic interviews at ICCCAD and ICDDR,B that I realised the direction my work would take.  Semi structured interviews focused on discussing what the greatest impacts of climate on health were expected to be in Bangladesh and what research was currently being conducted in this area.  One of the aims of my project was to practice data analysis.  The interviews facilitated relationships with academics, and at ICDDR,B, I applied for access to the Matlab dataset which contains demographic and health information of a community in rural Bangladesh.  ICDDR,B also provided the climate data for my project, though this is an open access rouces.  For several of the evenings I was invited to dinner events run by ICCCAD which provided the opportunity to network with other researchers and learn more about my field of interest.

Sonargaon Folk and Craft Museum

My spare time was an ideal opportunity to do some sight seeing.  The apartment being in central Dhaka meant I was in the midst of street food and shops.  Makam from ICCCAD took us on a tour of some of the local sights and delicacies and I enjoyed some proper tandoori chicken.  The BLI arranged a cultural excursion visiting Sonargaon to explore some of the history of Bangladesh.  Anyone who has lived in Dhaka will tell you about the traffic but I wasn’t quite prepared for a 30km journey to take six hours in a minibus!  We bonded together on the journey and made it to our destination where we were treated to the fascinating ruins of Panam City and Sonargaon Folk and Craft Museum and park.  Panam city used to be a trading centre of cotton during 19th Century and I would recommend it as a place to visit for anyone wanting to travel back in time in Bangladesh.

Panam City

It felt strange to leave at the end of the trip after being immersed in a different culture, but I was excited to return to the UK and learn more about the data I’d collected.  I learnt how to code in R and some tests for applying mathematical models.  This was challenging but incredibly satisfying when things worked!  To this day I am working on the appropriate model for the data and look forward to being able to share the results.  For now, the preliminary results stand that there is a positive association between acute myocardial infarction mortality and decreasing atmospheric temperature and a positive association between infectious disease mortality and decreasing atmospheric temperature in Matlab, rural Bangladesh.

I would like to thank all at ICCCAD and ICDDR,B for being so welcoming and helpful.  Especially, Dr Saleemal Huq and Makam Mahmud at ICCCAD, and Dr Aneire Khan, Dr Kim Streatfield, Mofizur Rahman at ICDDRB and Reefat Munmun at BLI.  And all those that gave their time for interviews: Dr Solaiman Doza, Asma Binte Aziz, Dr Sirajul Islam, Mahmud Sabuj, Anne Laure, Dr Mohammad Yunus, Dr Rashidul Haque, Md. Moinuddin Haider, Mahin al Nahian, Dr Ali Ahmed, Dr Belal Hossain, Dr. Ching Swe Phru, Dr. Abdur Razzaque.

The author Sarah Moody is a veterinary science student at the University of Liverpool.  In the academic year 2017/2018 she undertook an intercalated bachelors of science in Global Health at Imperial College London.  The Global Health project took her to Bangladesh.  The project focused on weather and human health outcomes, namely acute myocardial infarction and infectious disease mortalities.  As of 2018 she is completing the final two clinical years of veterinary science to become a qualified veterinary surgeon.

e-mail: sarah22920@gmail.com