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Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Feb; 109(2): 155–159.
PMCID: PMC1240636
Research Article

The influence of climate variation and change on diarrheal disease in the Pacific Islands.


Freshwater resources are a high-priority issue in the Pacific region. Water shortage is a serious problem in many small island states, and many depend heavily on rainwater as the source of their water. Lack of safe water supplies is an important factor in diarrheal illness. There have been no previous studies looking specifically at the relationship between climate variability and diarrhea in the Pacific region. We carried out two related studies to explore the potential relationship between climate variability and the incidence of diarrhea in the Pacific Islands. In the first study, we examined the average annual rates of diarrhea in adults, as well as temperature and water availability from 1986 to 1994 for 18 Pacific Island countries. There was a positive association between annual average temperature and the rate of diarrhea reports, and a negative association between water availability and diarrhea rates. In the second study, we examined diarrhea notifications in Fiji in relation to estimates of temperature and rainfall, using Poisson regression analysis of monthly data for 1978-1998. There were positive associations between diarrhea reports and temperature and between diarrhea reports and extremes of rainfall. These results are consistent with previous research and suggest that global climate change is likely to exacerbate diarrheal illness in many Pacific Island countries.

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