Dr. Bell brings drought expertise to CDC guidebook

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations | August 31, 2018

Image with caption: Jesse Bell, Ph.D.

Jesse Bell, Ph.D.

Jesse Bell, Ph.D., the Claire M. Hubbard Professor of Health and Environment in the UNMC College of Public Health, was a subject matter expert for the June release of the drought and health resource guide for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Inside the guide

This new guide contains five modules, providing best practices on conducting vulnerability assessments, collaboration among stakeholders, communicating drought preparedness and response strategies, and where to find (and how to use) data on drought.

The guide also includes a list of valuable resources for public health professionals. The authors of the guide also developed two attractive, user-friendly handouts that can be easily customized and reproduced for community outreach.

His contribution to "Preparing for the Health Effects of Drought: A Resource Guide for Public Health Officials" was made while he was a research scientist and liaison between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information and the CDC. Dr. Bell was stationed in Asheville, N.C., working at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites-North Carolina, which is associated with North Carolina State University.

Dr. Bell called it an honor to serve as a subject matter expert.

"Hopefully, this resource guide can help U.S. public health officials understand and prepare for the diverse and complex health threats associated with drought.

"Over the last century, droughts, worldwide, have likely led to more deaths than any other weather-related disaster -- mostly due to famine and malnutrition. However, in the United States, we typically do not associate droughts with adverse health outcomes.

"It is important to point out that droughts are unlike other weather-related disasters, because they evolve more slowly. These slow changes in our environment can go unnoticed or overlooked, but these changes can be catastrophic and lead to negative health outcomes. For example, droughts can cause severe economic loss, exacerbate extreme heat events, intensify wildfires, reduce air and water quality, and increase disease incidence."

Although the public health effects of drought can be severe, they are often hard to observe or measure directly, making them easy to overlook. Of the lengthy list of such effects, some of the most prominent are:

  • Reduced access to potable water, food sources compromised.
  • Increases in vector-borne diseases and infections due to changes in the patterns and populations of disease carriers.
  • Increased respiratory distress, including increased risk of respiratory infections.
  • Increased risk of dehydration as well as heat exhaustion and heat stroke during heat waves.
  • Worsening of chronic illnesses.
  • Adverse mental health effects including stress, anxiety, and depression.

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Gleb Haynatzki
September 04, 2018 at 10:03 PM

Dr Bell, welcome to UNMC and the College of Public Health!