Indians vulnerable to climate change-induced health issues

Indians vulnerable to climate change-induced health issues


More than half of the country’s population, residing in 344 districts, face consequences due to the adverse impacts of climate change. The increasing exposure to factors such as prolonged summers, erratic rains, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers has led to heightened health risks, loss of livelihoods, and increased vulnerability to poverty and migration


GS-03 GS-01(Conservation, Climate Change)

Key highlights:

  • The vulnerability assessment framework from the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change accessed the district-level exposures, sensitivities, adaptive capacities, and health vulnerabilities across all 640 districts in India (Census 2011).
  • The findings reveal that 298 districts, housing 52% of India’s population, face high or very high levels of exposure. Approximately 30% of the population in 184 districts experiences very high and high sensitivity to climate change impacts.
  • Around 153 districts, with one-fifth of India’s population, exhibit moderate and low adaptive capacities. This indicates a varied ability among communities to adapt and mitigate the health consequences of climate change.
  • The study identifies factors contributing to vulnerability, including poorly developed primary healthcare systems, high infant mortality rates, and inadequate child health indicators. It emphasizes the role of robust primary healthcare in addressing preventable causes of mortality and morbidity.

Causes of the Issue:

  • Climate Change Impacts: Prolonged summers, erratic rainfall, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers are direct consequences of climate change. These phenomena expose communities to health risks, disrupt livelihoods, and contribute to poverty and migration.
  • Varied Adaptive Capacities: Factors such as education, living conditions, social safety nets, and access to resilient health systems influence communities’ ability to adapt to climate change impacts.
  • Weak Primary Healthcare Systems: It is obvious that districts with poorly developed primary healthcare systems face higher vulnerability. Moreover, high infant mortality rates and inadequate child health indicators indicate the need for more robust healthcare infrastructure at the grassroots level.
  • Social Inequalities in the distribution of social determinants of health: Inequalities in areas including livelihood opportunities, working conditions, and education, contribute to heightened sensitivity to climate-induced health risks.
  • Insufficient Public Expenditure on Health: Limited public expenditure on health exacerbates vulnerability, leading to high out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare.
  • Inadequate Data Systems: Lack of collaboration, data sharing, and trust in generated data pose challenges to evidence-based policymaking which highlights the weaknesses in the current health data system architecture that is hindering effective policy action.

Way forward:

  • Priority should be made to strengthen primary healthcare systems to provide essential services and address preventable causes of mortality and morbidity.
  • Implement policies that includes providing sustainable livelihood opportunities, improving working conditions, and enhancing education and employability to build communities’ adaptive capacities that reduces disparities in social determinants of health.
  • Engage local self-governance institutions in climate and health agendas to foster greater accountability within the health system to ensure that policies are responding to the needs of the people.