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The Australian National University

Professor Anthony McMichael

MBBS, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Population Health
ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment
T: (02) 6125 2378

Areas of expertise

  • Epidemiology 111706
  • Climate Change Processes 040104
  • Ecological Impacts Of Climate Change 050101
  • Infectious Diseases 110309
  • Mortality 160304

Research interests

1.a. Identifying, characterising and projecting the population health impacts of human-induced climate change. This research is done at local, national, regional and global scales. Particular attention is paid to the risks and adaptive options in high-vulnerability populations and groups, nationally and internationally.

1.b. Studying the phenomena and processes relating to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases, especially those associated with climatic and environmental changes, ubanisation and population density and mobility, and the circumstances of poverty (including under-nutrition and immune impairment).

1.c. Developing concepts and methods to study and understand, within a broad socio-ecological context, the health impacts of climate change and other global (or large-scale, transboundary) environmental changes, and the (interim) adaptive strategies neede to reduce risks.

2. Facilitating research approaches to the study of the determinants of environmental 'sustainability' -- urban settlements, food production, consumption patterns, transport, energy use and impacts on the wider environment and climate.  What is their present and probable future impact on human health?

3. Seeking insight into how human exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) affects human biology, particularly immune system function -- and the consequences for risks of immune-related disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

Biography

Professor Tony McMichael, MBBS, PhD, is a medical graduate (Adelaide University 1967) and epidemiologist (Monash University 1972). Before his recent 'retirement' he held an NHMRC Australia Fellowship at the Australian National University.  He was previously Professor of Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 1994-2001, and then Director of ANU's National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health (2001-2007). He is Hon. Prof of Climate Change and Health at University of Copenhagen, Hon. Fellow of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Fellow of Australian Academy of Technological Sciences, and  ex-President of the International Soc of Environmental Epidemiology. In 2011 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), and was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences. Prof. McMichael has played a pioneering role in developing research on the health risks and burdens from global climate change and other large-scale environmental changes. He has been an advisor on this topic to the WHO. During 1993-2001 he headed the assessment of health risks for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and for the (international) Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. His interest in patterns of infectious disease emergence and spread has entailed chairing an Expert Reference Group for the (WHO-based) Tropical Diseases Research Program, 2008-12, focusing on the joint climatic-environmental-agricultural-nutritional influences on infectious disease emergence and risks in poor populations.  Having worked on occupational disease epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, subsequently during 1976-2003, at CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition and then University of Adelaide (Community Medicine), he studied dietary and environmental influences on specific diseases (including the impact of early-life environmental lead exposure on child intellectual development). His publications include over 300 peer-reviewed papers, 160 book chapters, two sole-author books (Planetary Overload: Global Environmental Change and Human Health, 1993, and Human Frontiers, Environments and Disease: Past Patterns, Uncertain Futures, 2001; both with Cambridge Univ Press), and several co-authored or edited books.

Researcher's projects

Estimation of risks and burdens of disease (infectious and other disease) and premature death in populations in relation to climatic and environmental changes. Assessment of sources and levels of vulnerability, especially in rural, remote and impoverished populations.

Several studies (including in conjunction with PhD students) of how environmental and climatic changes, along with social, demographic and commercial changes, affect the emergence and spread of infectious diseases - vector-borne, food-borne and water-borne.

Analysis of the long historical record of climatic trends and fluctuations, and how these have affected human wellbeing, health and survival. This provides a (limited) analogue for understanding better the sensitivity of human societies to climate-induced changes in food yields, water flows, infectious disease activity and social stability, and therefore how future climate change might affect the fundamentals of population health.

Suite of studies (2003-ongoing) of influence of solar UV exposure, vitamin D status, early-life infectious agent exposure and genetic factors on the occurrence and progression of autoimmune multiple sclerosis (and its preclinical marker condition).

Current student projects

Rosemary McFarlane (PhD student): Environmental and human-ecological determinants of emergence and spread of zoonotic infectious agents and diseases in Australia and surrounding region

Publications

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Updated:  20 April 2014 / Responsible Officer:  Pro VC (Research and Research Training) / Page Contact:  Researchers