Accessibility statement

Public health and climate change; research priorities for local solutions

Project summary

Last year, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) asked us to answer the question: What research on climate change and public health still needs to be done and will be most helpful for local authorities?

What we did

  • We studied the most important UK policies on climate change and public health to find out the most important themes on which local authorities are expected to take action.
  • We discussed our findings with Climate Change Leads from Integrated Care Systems and put together a top 15 to 20 of the most important themes.
  • We sent out a survey to all Directors of Public Health in local government and asked them to rank the top 15-20 in terms of relevance to their local population.
  • We took a close look at the top ranked themes to find out what and how much research was available on these themes. They were:
    • Public understanding of health implications of climate change
    • Public acceptability of local climate actions
    • Budgetary and economic implication of climate action

What we found

We found very little research on the three themes, especially on the economic implications of local climate action. Research evidence on how to make climate action fair was also lacking. As a result, we don’t know:

  • If and how social inequalities play a role when it comes to people’s understanding and acceptability of climate change actions.
  • If the costs and benefits of climate change actions are spread equally across the population.

So our recommendation to the NIHR is: invest in research to find this out. However, we will also point out that research alone is not enough. Adequate funding is needed to make local climate actions happen. Only then can local councils properly help their citizens to reduce their impact on climate change and protect their health from the effects of climate change.

How you helped us

We spoke to you about the impact of climate change on your life and health in general, about the role of local councils, and about the  three top-ranked themes mentioned above. Hearing the opinions from all of you in our Public Involvement group was incredibly enriching. It made us realise just how difficult it is to make local climate change action clear, fair and relevant to different people. This made us more confident in our recommendations.

We have included a lot of detail from your contributions in our research report. This is to make sure that other researchers have the opportunity to learn from you as well.