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Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change in OECD Countries

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ABSTRACT

Climate change is a major challenge facing public health. National governments play a key role in public health adaptation to climate change, but there are competing views on what responsibilities and obligations this will—or should—include in different nations. This study aims to: (1) examine how national-level public health adaptation is occurring in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries; (2) examine the roles national governments are taking in public health adaptation; and (3) critically appraise three key governance dimensions of national-level health adaptation—cross-sectoral collaboration, vertical coordination and national health adaptation planning—and identify practical examples suited to different contexts. We systematically reviewed publicly available public health adaptation to climate change documents and webpages by national governments in ten OECD countries using systematic web searches, assessment of self-reporting, and content analysis. Our findings suggest national governments are primarily addressing infectious disease and heat-related risks posed by climate change, typically emphasizing capacity building or information-based groundwork initiatives. We find national governments are taking a variety of approaches to public health adaptation to climate change that do not follow expected convergence and divergence by governance structure. We discuss practical options for incorporating cross-sectoral collaboration, vertical coordination and national health adaptation planning into a variety of contexts and identify leaders national governments can look to to inform their public health adaptation planning. Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement and subsequent increased momentum for adaptation, research tracking adaptation is needed to define what health adaptation looks like in practice, reveal insights that can be taken up across states and sectors, and ensure policy orientated learning.

No MeSH data available.


Percentage of health risks addressed by identified health adaptation initiatives.
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ijerph-13-00889-f001: Percentage of health risks addressed by identified health adaptation initiatives.

Mentions: National governments most frequently report planning broad health adaptation initiatives, and otherwise emphasize infectious disease and heat-related risks. Nearly half of the health adaptation initiatives planned or implemented by national governments do not target specific health risks, likely due to the nature of national-level initiatives and policies intended to guide more targeted actions at the sub-national level (Figure 1) [28,79]. The most frequently addressed health risks are infectious diseases (n = 38) and heat-related risks (n = 32). All of the sampled countries will or are experiencing changing incidence, prevalence or patterns of food-, water-, or vector-borne infectious diseases [71]. For example, in northern Canada climate change is projected to increase the incidence and prevalence of food- and water-borne infectious diseases among indigenous communities, and in New Zealand climate change could allow new mosquito vectors to establish resulting in changing patterns of existing and emerging vector-borne infectious diseases [80,81]. Similarly, the emphasis on adaptation to protect populations from heat-related risks may be in response to the high level of mortality from recent heat waves in the sampled countries. Whereas we find national governments are planning or implementing fewer initiatives specifically targeting floods and storms (n = 9), air quality (n = 4), ultraviolet (UV) radiation (n = 4), mental health (n = 2) or cold-related risks (n = 2) (Figure 1), a study of sub-national health adaptation found that local governments are targeting flood and storm risks and heat-related risk, but not addressing infectious disease risks [57]. This variation suggests national-level governments are planning or implementing more population-level health adaptation initiatives, while local governments’ health adaptation initiatives are more targeted to the local/regional level. Initiatives addressing the mental health risks associated with climate change have only been planned or implemented since 2013 within our sample. Despite recently receiving greater recognition in the academic literature [5,82], mental health and associated adaptation policy action received minimal attention in reporting on adaptation among the sampled countries.


Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change in OECD Countries
Percentage of health risks addressed by identified health adaptation initiatives.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5036722&req=5

ijerph-13-00889-f001: Percentage of health risks addressed by identified health adaptation initiatives.
Mentions: National governments most frequently report planning broad health adaptation initiatives, and otherwise emphasize infectious disease and heat-related risks. Nearly half of the health adaptation initiatives planned or implemented by national governments do not target specific health risks, likely due to the nature of national-level initiatives and policies intended to guide more targeted actions at the sub-national level (Figure 1) [28,79]. The most frequently addressed health risks are infectious diseases (n = 38) and heat-related risks (n = 32). All of the sampled countries will or are experiencing changing incidence, prevalence or patterns of food-, water-, or vector-borne infectious diseases [71]. For example, in northern Canada climate change is projected to increase the incidence and prevalence of food- and water-borne infectious diseases among indigenous communities, and in New Zealand climate change could allow new mosquito vectors to establish resulting in changing patterns of existing and emerging vector-borne infectious diseases [80,81]. Similarly, the emphasis on adaptation to protect populations from heat-related risks may be in response to the high level of mortality from recent heat waves in the sampled countries. Whereas we find national governments are planning or implementing fewer initiatives specifically targeting floods and storms (n = 9), air quality (n = 4), ultraviolet (UV) radiation (n = 4), mental health (n = 2) or cold-related risks (n = 2) (Figure 1), a study of sub-national health adaptation found that local governments are targeting flood and storm risks and heat-related risk, but not addressing infectious disease risks [57]. This variation suggests national-level governments are planning or implementing more population-level health adaptation initiatives, while local governments’ health adaptation initiatives are more targeted to the local/regional level. Initiatives addressing the mental health risks associated with climate change have only been planned or implemented since 2013 within our sample. Despite recently receiving greater recognition in the academic literature [5,82], mental health and associated adaptation policy action received minimal attention in reporting on adaptation among the sampled countries.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Climate change is a major challenge facing public health. National governments play a key role in public health adaptation to climate change, but there are competing views on what responsibilities and obligations this will—or should—include in different nations. This study aims to: (1) examine how national-level public health adaptation is occurring in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries; (2) examine the roles national governments are taking in public health adaptation; and (3) critically appraise three key governance dimensions of national-level health adaptation—cross-sectoral collaboration, vertical coordination and national health adaptation planning—and identify practical examples suited to different contexts. We systematically reviewed publicly available public health adaptation to climate change documents and webpages by national governments in ten OECD countries using systematic web searches, assessment of self-reporting, and content analysis. Our findings suggest national governments are primarily addressing infectious disease and heat-related risks posed by climate change, typically emphasizing capacity building or information-based groundwork initiatives. We find national governments are taking a variety of approaches to public health adaptation to climate change that do not follow expected convergence and divergence by governance structure. We discuss practical options for incorporating cross-sectoral collaboration, vertical coordination and national health adaptation planning into a variety of contexts and identify leaders national governments can look to to inform their public health adaptation planning. Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement and subsequent increased momentum for adaptation, research tracking adaptation is needed to define what health adaptation looks like in practice, reveal insights that can be taken up across states and sectors, and ensure policy orientated learning.

No MeSH data available.