Thus, there is still uncertainty concerning the effects of climate change on vector ecologies and disease incidence. Existing mathematical models are not sophisticated enough to be truly predictive (NRC, 2001), and empirical studies are contradictory because the actual spatial patterns of disease that have occurred with climate change have been geographically variable, even under similar climatic conditions. This is probably because of the extreme sensitivity of local vector ecologies to local physical conditions and to human social and behavioral patterns. Few of the models and empirical studies have considered elements of social structure, demographic or settlement patterns, or human behavior. Rather, they have concentrated too narrowly on the physical and biological variables, and on simplistic deterministic models of vector behavior that are driven by temperature alone.
It is regrettable that there has been so little integration of social scientific concepts into the study of emerging infectious diseases, despite the fact the emergence of new diseases is due largely to social and geographic change. Rather, the vast preponderance of research and policy directed toward disease emergence has been explicitly biological in nature. What is necessary is a synthesis of biological, social, and political concepts to reach an overall understanding of emerging infections. This is particularly true in the context of globalization. One of the consequences of the lack of inclusion of social scientific understanding has been a restrictive definition of globalization in public health—an understanding that has included only the surface phenomena of transportation of people and commodities and of migration. Understanding the relationships between changing vector ecologies and globalization also necessitates an understanding of how political and economic decisions, particularly decisions that alter the landscape, in turn change human–environment relations in local and regional contexts.
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