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Madeira’s Dengue Outbreak – A Consequence of Global Warming

The effect of climate change on public health is one of the three major current challenges facing the Portuguese National Health Service (NHS), that require immediate action, said former Health Director-General (DG) Francisco George, while talking to the press on the 40th anniversary of the NHS.  

‘We have to take this new reality into account, and we cannot ignore it. There can be no postponements; it is now or never.  These are decisions that the Government of the Republic has to take now!’

He then stated that in addition to climate change, there are two other significant challenges: chronic age related illness, and the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics.

Francisco George further stated that a marked increase in cancers, especially skin cancer, particularly melanoma, and diseases that are transmitted by mosquito bites such as dengue in Madeira, can easily be attributed to global warming.  Portugal also faces a double ageing problem with its decreasing births and an ever-increasing number of pensioners.  The DG pointed out that this is a problem that everybody talks about, but which requires action that can no longer be delayed, especially as there are 320,000 Portuguese over the age of 85, many of whom are suffering from ill health. This, he says creates its own set of problems and chronic diseases associated with an ageing population has created a different reality to today’s NHS.  A hospital 40 years ago had beds for acute patients, now it has to have beds prepared to receive chronic patients.

We need to know how to read health problems, and tackle upcoming challenges.

He went on to say that ‘Another problem’ which has to be tackled once and for all is the misuse of antibiotics, which has to end. These drugs have to be preserved and stored because there are more and more bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, which means that many infectious diseases  such as tuberculosis, are difficult to cure.

The former Director-General of Health also stressed the importance of health literacy to help the population combat these problems. ‘More than just doctors and nurses.  The whole population has to realise what the risks are.  For example, people need to that they have to wash their hands or that they can’t use leftover pills from their neighbour’s just because it made them feel better.

The current president of the Red Cross also argued that the media should reduce football analysis spaces and invest more in health information programmes, saying.

“There is an exaggeration of analysis programs, which sometimes even seem like philosophical analyses of football.  We should have more serious information to discuss, and major media outlets such as radio and television are indispensable platform to discuss health issues and create better national awareness.

Samantha Gannon

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Madeira Weekly