climate emergency

health in climate adaptation | research & practice guidance

This project built on our ongoing collaborative work with Public Health Wales and the Wales Health Impact Assessment Unit.  For several years we have supported this wider work on climate change which has mainly focused on the necessary work of undertaking what we believe are some of the first Health Impact Assessments on climate change and topics like circular economy at a whole population / whole country scale.  It also built on our internal R&D on geospatial data for climate vulnerability. [Download link at bottom of page.]

From this work both Urban Habitats and Public Health Wales wanted to consider what the needs of practitioners responding to climate change are.  After all most people working in climate adaptation are not public health folk.  Central to our work and our practice values is being evidence informed.  It was natural therefore that we should want to evidence and evaluate existing approaches to the integration of health impact assessment in climate adaptation. 

Bicycle at stand with dirty brown flood water around.
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

A case study approach

Initial searches suggest there has not been extensive use of HIA in climate adaptation and we had identified some existing examples.  We wanted to look at what had worked well as well as what had been learned from these so a case study approach was taken to allow comparison as well as some in depth understanding of each example.  Case studies were selected with a balance between Wales-based and international examples.  They included HIAs on:

  • Climate Change (Wales, country level)
  • Climate Adaptation Plan (South Central Minnesota, region level)
  • Environmental protection framework (Wales, programme level integration of HIA)
  • Climate change for Indigenous populations (Alaska, programme of HIA)
  • Drought and water scarcity (Wales, country level)

A collaborative approach

Urban Habitats was commissioned to lead the project by Public Health Wales.  We worked collaboratively with Public Health Wales to identify case studies.  Urban Habitats was particularly interested to identify examples of where community voice was included in a meaningful way.  A case study from Alaska exemplifies this having developed a method with Indigenous populations in locations that are already adapting to climate change and the importance of Indigenous knowledge to this.

The output is a short report describing the case studies and drawing together recommendations and learning for future use of HIA in climate adaptation planning.  The report is published jointly by Urban Habitats and Public Health Wales.

The report will be launched at Healthy City Design Congress 2023 in Liverpool with an international audience of practitioners, academics, and policy makers.

Aerial view taken high up of a flood defence with brown water to right and green grass to left with birds flying over.  Quite an abstract image.
Photo by Justin Wilkens on Unsplash

What we learned

Being able to undertake a detailed review of the case studies was a valuable learning for us and highlights the difference between being aware of a report or having it saved on your computer and actually having time to undertake an in depth analysis and comparison.

Perhaps surprising was the recommendation that basic project planning and management matter too!  Simple yet vital steps of scoping and a holistic approach are essential in HIA.

We were delighted to have a co-published report with Public Health Wales which could communicate with a range of stakeholders including folk working in climate adaptation who are primarily not in public health.

Report download

In English and Welsh from this link.

Want to know more?

The publication was launched on Tuesday 17 October 2023 at Health City Design International Congress at the Royal College of Physicians, Liverpool. Contact us if you’d like to chat more about health in climate adaptation!