Addressing vulnerability, building resilience: community-based adaptation to vector-borne diseases in the context of global change

Kevin Louis Bardosh, Sadie Ryan, Kris Ebi, Susan Welburn, Burton Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The threat of a rapidly changing planet - of coupled social, environmental and climatic change - pose new conceptual and practical challenges in responding to vector-borne diseases. These include non-linear and uncertain spatial-temporal change dynamics associated with climate, animals, land, water, food, settlement, conflict, ecology and human socio-cultural, economic and political-institutional systems. To date, research efforts have been dominated by disease modeling, which has provided limited practical advice to policymakers and practitioners in developing policies and programmes on the ground.

MAIN BODY: In this paper, we provide an alternative biosocial perspective grounded in social science insights, drawing upon concepts of vulnerability, resilience, participation and community-based adaptation. Our analysis was informed by a realist review (provided in the Additional file 2) focused on seven major climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases: malaria, schistosomiasis, dengue, leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, chagas disease, and rift valley fever. Here, we situate our analysis of existing community-based interventions within the context of global change processes and the wider social science literature. We identify and discuss best practices and conceptual principles that should guide future community-based efforts to mitigate human vulnerability to vector-borne diseases. We argue that more focused attention and investments are needed in meaningful public participation, appropriate technologies, the strengthening of health systems, sustainable development, wider institutional changes and attention to the social determinants of health, including the drivers of co-infection.

CONCLUSION: In order to respond effectively to uncertain future scenarios for vector-borne disease in a changing world, more attention needs to be given to building resilient and equitable systems in the present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166
JournalInfectious diseases of poverty
Issue number1
Early online date11 Dec 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Dec 2017


  • Journal Article
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