The health-related impacts of climate change: a Q&A with Ana De Menezes

Investigating the increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases as temperatures rise

Ana De Menezes is a PhD researcher in the Department of Geography and the Environment

This research is important as it helps governments make informed decisions about urban planning, housing policies, and public health strategies to protect against the negative consequences of climate change
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Ana De Menezes

What are you currently researching?

Climate change is already having an impact on our health, with a key concern being the increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases as temperatures rise.

In my current research, I analyse how urban features, such as building height and urban heat islands, contribute to amplifying this risk. By modelling these connections, we can better understand how socioeconomic factors and housing decisions influence vulnerability to climate-sensitive diseases.

This research is important as it helps governments make informed decisions about urban planning, housing policies, and public health strategies to protect against the negative consequences of climate change. 

Why did you choose this area of study?

My decision to study the impacts of climate change on health stemmed from my personal experience during the 2015 Zika epidemic in Brazil, where I witnessed the devastation that mosquito-borne diseases can bring to people's lives and livelihoods. This first-hand exposure was further supported by scientific evidence during my participation in COP21 and in my MSc focused on Climate Science.

While the evidence suggested that these risks would intensify in the future, many unanswered questions remained, such as the impact of climate-sensitive diseases on labour productivity, the evolution of health expenditures in response to the expansion of these diseases, and the identification and protection of the most vulnerable populations. Also, I was curious about the adaptation mechanisms used to address the impacts of climate change on health.

By focusing my PhD research on these questions, I aim to understand the mechanisms behind these health-related impacts and contribute to the development of effective strategies and policies that can safeguard people both now and in the future. 

How will your research have a wider impact on society? Can you give some real-world examples of the impact your research will have?

My research aims to broaden academic understanding of climate change impacts and the diverse risks it poses to society. Through understanding the economic consequences of climate change on health, my research can guide governments in developing financial safety nets and support systems. Examples include providing subsidies for climate-resilient housing, offering insurance programs for income loss due to climate-related health issues, and ensuring adequate funding for healthcare systems to cope with increased disease burdens.

What have been the highlights of your research work so far?

 Throughout my research journey, collaborations have been particularly rewarding. Engaging with policymakers and practitioners allowed me to gain insights about their challenges and tailor my research to address real-world issues. Also, collaborating with researchers from various disciplines, such as health policy, climate science, and economics, has deeply enriched my research and helped me develop a well-rounded perspective on climate change and health.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

The most significant challenge I've faced is managing the complex process of producing scholarship. The journey from the initial concept to numerous drafts, interactions with literature and other researchers, and eventual publication can be long and daunting. Maintaining focus on the big picture and recognizing that every small piece of work contributes to the overall vision and to my field contribution to the field has been crucial.

What advice would you give to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down? 

Pursuing a PhD is an incredible opportunity to develop new skills and make a meaningful contribution to a research field you care deeply about. I would advise focusing on the long term and not letting short-term obstacles dampen your motivation. The skills and experience you learn during the process will undoubtedly serve you well in your future career, whether in academia or elsewhere. Also, it is very important to create a support network with fellow students and researchers to share experiences and seek advice. In my case, I helped establish the LSE Women PhD Network, which, alongside my department's PhD students and faculty, has been an incredible source of inspiration and encouragement.

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

LSE offers such a rich community of fellow students, faculty, and alumni who together create a very supportive and intellectually stimulating environment. Also, living in London has been a great source of cultural experiences and professional opportunities.