Pioneering Research at the Intersection of Climate Change and Public Health: A Spotlight on Jean Bikomeye

In a world where the impacts of climate change are increasingly felt, individuals like Jean Bikomeye, a PhD candidate in Public and Community Health program at the ӰԺ (ӰԺ), are stepping up to confront this global challenge head-on. Bikomeye’s journey into the realm of environmental research is deeply rooted in personal experiences, reflecting a commitment to addressing the profound impact of climate change on public health.

Bikomeye’s childhood in a small rural area of Rwanda instilled in him a firsthand understanding of the devastating effects of climate change on communities reliant on subsistence farming.

“As climate patterns became increasingly irregular and unpredictable, our small family farm faced severe challenges, leading to declining productivity year after year,” Bikomeye says. “Despite our efforts, the climate-change-induced emergence of new pests and diseases threatened our subsistence farming, vital for our survival.”

These challenges spurred Bikomeye’s passion for addressing climate change through research and action. “As a PhD student at ӰԺ, I understood that I could not single-handedly resolve the climate crisis I witnessed as a child, but I realized that I could at least contribute to a better awareness of the issue and start thinking about multipurpose interventions that are specific to unique community contexts,” he says.

Jean Bikomeye volunteer work

Presenting Climate Change Solutions

Fast forward to today, and Bikomeye finds himself at the forefront of climate change research, poised to make a significant impact in the field of public health. Recently, he had the honor of leading a presidential panel discussion at the 45th annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM). His presentation, titled “Maximizing Impact in Behavioral Medicine: Comprehensive Frameworks for Multi-purpose Climate-Health Interventions,” underscored the critical intersection of climate change and health.

“Presenting at esteemed national conferences has been fulfilling,” Bikomeye reflects, “and being chosen for a Presidential Session is an exceptional honor.” His presentation provided valuable insights and practical applications for researchers in the behavioral medicine field, emphasizing the need to integrate climate change and health-related interventions into research efforts.

At the SBM meeting, Bikomeye shared insights from his published “Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation, and Public Health Conceptual Framework” from 2021. This framework serves as a roadmap for integrating climate change and health interventions into behavioral medicine research.

“My presentation provided valuable insights and practical applications for researchers in the behavioral medicine field,” he says. “I believe we can deepen our collective understanding of the climate crisis and collaboratively develop informed solutions.”

Jean Bikomeye presenting at SBM Meeting

Looking ahead, Bikomeye is committed to leveraging his research to drive meaningful progress in addressing the challenges posed by climate change in public health. Bikomeye is the current co-Chair for the Wisconsin’s Public Health Association Climate and Health Section, and the Deputy Chair for External Communications Committee of the SBM Climate and Health Special Interest Group.

“As I transition from a graduate student to a scientific investigator, I stand poised to make significant contributions to the scientific community,” he says. “My commitment extends beyond personal and professional goals – I am deeply committed to driving meaningful progress toward a more sustainable, equitable and just future.”

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