News Releases

UWI and CARICOM Partner on Project to Combat the Health Effects of Climate Change

For Release Upon Receipt - January 19, 2021

St. Augustine

The University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine Campus is partnering with CARICOM on an initiative designed to help reduce mortality and morbidity from the health consequences of climate change.

The European Union-funded initiative, “Building Climate Resilient Health Systems in the Caribbean”, builds upon the success of the “One Health One Caribbean One Love” project led by The UWI St. Augustine from 2014 to 2017.

“We realise that climate change is with us, and we are very much on the front line, and we’re seeing the changes,” observes Chris Oura, Professor in Veterinary Virology at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the St. Augustine Campus.

Prof Oura is the team lead of The UWI component of the project and also led the earlier “One Health” initiative.

Many CARICOM countries are developing their national adaptation plans (NAPS) for climate change, but Oura notes “in a lot of those plans, there are no health elements at all”.

The need to address the health impacts of climate change are evident across the Caribbean: violent hurricanes, heat waves, increased air pollution, rising sea levels and of course COVID-19 and other pandemics.

“We’ve seen pictures of a wave coming through with COVID-19 on it,” explains Oura, “and close behind it, this massive tidal wave is coming -- climate change.”

Emphasising the close relationship between health and climate, Oura notes: “They are both wicked problems that are having a severe impact. We need to increase resilience in our health. We need to look after our environment. Otherwise, we’re going to be hit again harder by pandemics, and we’re going to be hit harder by climate change”.

Coordinated through the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the project has acquired European Union funding. Four key components were identified -- adaptation and testing of PAHO/WHO tools to estimate health benefits; comprehensive health chapters in NAPS; improved surveillance capacity of professionals in health sectors; and, UWI’s responsibility, strong and effective climate change leadership.

One of UWI’s initiatives within the project will be a fellowship programme. Fellows will be recruited from the 15 participating countries, receive training and embark on projects geared toward turning plans and policy into action. The ideal fellow will be enthusiastic and motivated with leadership potential, a person in a position to promote real change.

Professsor Oura envisions a cohort across the region cooperating to promote climate change and health policies. “In ten years’ time we’d like to have 50 or 60 fellows, all interacting and working together, collaborating and moving forward.”

The programme’s targets include more regional policymakers advocating a “one health, one Caribbean” approach, timely surveillance reports outlining climate sensitive diseases and conditions, and more countries with comprehensive health strategies and action plans.

However, Professor Oura emphasises that real transformation cannot happen without community involvement: “All this change generally in these kinds of areas comes from the bottom up and comes from the community.” He notes that one positive outcome from the pandemic is that more people seem to be aware of the crucial link between climate change and health. Perhaps this can help foster the public’s support of these initiatives.

“It’s made people more aware of the fragility of our environment and the importance of respecting and protecting nature, and that has big consequences for the pandemic and also for climate change as well”.

More information about the fellowship can be found at the following link:




About The UWI


For more than 70 years The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has provided service and leadership to the Caribbean region and wider world. The UWI evolved from a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948 to an internationally respected, regional university with near 50,000 students across five campuses: Cave Hill in Barbados; Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda; Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago; and an Open Campus. Times Higher Education has ranked The UWI among the top 1,258 universities in world for 2019, and the 40 best universities in its Latin America Rankings for 2018 and 2019. The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists.

As part of its robust globalization agenda, The UWI has established partnering centres with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa including the State University of New York (SUNY)-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development; the Canada-Caribbean Studies Institute with Brock University; the Strategic Alliance for Hemispheric Development with Universidad de los Andes (UNIANDES); The UWI-China Institute of Information Technology, the University of Lagos (UNILAG)-UWI Institute of African and Diaspora Studies and the Institute for Global African Affairs with the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, Social Sciences and Sport. As the region’s premier research academy, The UWI’s foremost objective is driving the growth and development of the regional economy. For more, visit


(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of “The”)