A view of the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal. Credits: Meryl Kruskopf, SERVIR

Air Quality and Health

Clean air is essential to a healthy population, a healthy environment, and a healthy economy. Globally, however, poor air quality is linked to millions of premature deaths each year. Industrialization, vehicle emissions, agricultural burning, and forest fires are major drivers of poor air quality. Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heat waves and extreme heat which can further exacerbate poor air quality. Similarly, droughts can facilitate catastrophic forest fires which in turn can compromise air quality and public health. 

SERVIR uses Earth observations to help decision-makers map sources of air pollution, track how this pollution moves within and across borders, and study how it affects people’s health. Earth observations are also used to measure rainfall and air temperature and improve model forecasts to provide early warning of threats to public health. Together, these warnings are used to inform early actions to reduce or prevent negative impacts on vulnerable populations.

SERVIR works with regional and local partners to support vital air quality monitoring and public health services. Air quality monitoring services can inform locally-led action designed to reduce the negative health consequences of air pollution. These actions can include air quality warnings and emission reduction policies. 

In addition, satellite data and forecasts can be leveraged in support of improved human health beyond air quality: other data-driven health opportunities include improved forecasts of the distribution of malaria-carrying mosquitoes and other vector-borne diseases. By predicting where vector or water-borne disease outbreaks are likely to occur, there is opportunity to work with local control programs so that they are better prepared for and able to respond to fluctuations in disease case loads.

A view of the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal. Credits: Meryl Kruskopf, SERVIR