Green map of Wales.

R&D evaluating climate vulnerability with geospatial data

introduction

Adaptation to climate change is a vital part of planning for the effects of climate change.  Adaptation can be: planned, reactive, anticipatory, or spontaneous (UKCIP, 2013).  And unsurprisingly taking planned action before you are forced into reactive response is lest costly and can be better planned and targeted to reduce inequalities.

Read more “R&D evaluating climate vulnerability with geospatial data”
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circular economy | health impact assessment

A health impact assessment commissioned by Public Health Wales, part of NHS Wales: Circular economies and sustainable health and well-being: the public health impact of public bodies refocusing on waste reduction and reuse in Wales.

Menu board written in colourful chalk on blackboard - What's in Season? August.  Mushrums, artichoke, beetroot, and lots of others.

Moving toward a circular economy

Beyond recycling is Welsh Government’s plan to keep resources in use and avoid waste with an aim to reach zero waste by 2050.  This has the opportunity to create profound environmental, social, and economic benefits.  Circular economy approaches have been developed and championed by both the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Kate Raworth in her book Doughnut Economics.  This assessment set out with a public health lens to investigate the health and well-being benefits that circular and doughnut approaches can help create.

Health impact assessment (HIA)

HIA is an approach that considers how the health and wellbeing of populations may be affected by a suggested action, in this case the introduction of a circular economy approach to waste reduction. HIA approaches are used to improve health and reduce inequalities throughout plans and projects but also policies and programmes.  Urban Habitats was commissioned by the Welsh Health Impact Assessment Unit at Public Health Wales, a leading centre of expertise on HIA globally, and part of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Investment for Health and Well-being. Urban Habitats’ role was to develop an initial draft HIA and edit this into a final report including through Public Health Wales’ peer review process.

COVID-19

Initial evidence searches and assessment had been conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic which had a huge impact on waste collection services both in terms of keeping them running and front line workers finding themselves faced with potentially infectious waste.  Urban Habitats was also tasked therefore to undertake a rapid review of a range of peer reviewed and grey literature and assess this evidence for impacts.

Impact framework

An impact framework was prepared, whilst not a requirement of the protocol, it is the case that with environmental determinants of health form a complex web of interconnections so use of systems mapping approaches can be invaluable to assessing pathways to impact – in other words like a spider’s web, if you pull one thread, what else is affected?

Assessment

A comprehensive and concurrent assessment of circular economy approaches including waste reduction, reuse, and recycling in Wales was undertaken.  Evidence sources were synthesised and impacts assessed previously by Public Health Wales through workshops and interviews were further interrogated by Urban Habitats and then through an assessment workshop working with second and third reviewers / assessors.  Due to the timing of the assessment, Urban Habitats was able to incorporate a new preliminary assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic in this area, highlighting the impacts this had on existing waste reduction approaches.

Report – Final Report Now Published

Report cover: circular economies and sustainable health and well-being. The public health impact of public bodies refocusing on waste reduction and reuse in Wales. Picture of wales map with circular icon over top and held in a hand with images around -

The final published reports are now available via the following links:

Executive Summary

Infographic

Summary Report

Supporting Information Report

What we learned:

White background with deconstructed electronic device laid out neatly.
Image credit: Alexander Andrews, Unsplash

It is no exaggeration to say that the HIA protocols developed by Public Health Wales are a leading example internationally of how to undertake HIA in an ethical, participatory, and evidence informed way and make the gaps in some other approaches manifest.  These methods are clearly aligned to Urban Habitats’ values and build on our experience of integrating both full HIA and parts of HIA into much of our work.

This project provided an opportunity for a deep dive into the topic of circular economy.  This included enhanced understanding of the evidence base and also emphasised for us the huge positive potential of circular economy approaches to address climate, nature, and biodiversity crises whilst also addressing issues of equity and population health.

Feedback:

This assessment is the second in a series that develops Public Health Wales’ work on the health and wellbeing impacts of climate change on people and communities of Wales.  It is an important step and will help inform public health orientated action in Wales to address the climate, nature, and biodiversity emergencies and mobilise ‘health in all policies’ approaches.

Mark Drane and the Urban Habitats team brought an approach to their work clearly driven by their values as well as an approach that combined both rigour and a collaborative approach.  This support has been invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic when other team members were moved to frontline health protection roles.

We are very pleased with this work and it has helped to develop and refine the final output to include the very latest literature on circular economy and incorporated a rapid review of COVID-19 impacts.

Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health / Programme Director for Health Impact Assessment, Public Health Wales

Want to know more?

Are you keen to think about health & wellbeing in your community, work, or organisation?  We love to listen!  get in touch

climate change | health impact assessment

This case study of the Dyfi Biosphere was prepared in support of Public Health Wales’ health impact assessment (HIA) of the impact of climate change in Wales.  The study area is Wales’ only biosphere and offers a unique learning site for sustainable development, demonstrating a variety of communities, landscapes, and ecosystems.

Landscape, upland with sheep in field grazing, forestry above
Upland sheep farming and forestry

With such diverse features that are all in some way potentially affected by climate change, this area offered valuable insights about the impacts on health and wellbeing of climate change.  The study area was scoped to include the community of Fairbourne on the edge of the Biosphere that some media reports have described as potentially Britain’s first climate refugees.  This case study however sought to take a holistic view of the Dyfi Biosphere through a public health lens considering the many different communities both on the coast and inland and how they will be affected by broad ranging climate change impacts.

Urban Habitats was commissioned by the Welsh Health Impact Assessment Unit at Public Health Wales, a leading centre of expertise on HIA globally, and part of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Investment for Health and Well-being. Urban Habitats’ role was to develop a case study to provide relatable examples to a broad audience in support of the wider HIA.

Our approach

Methods were primarily desktop based.  Whilst the project scope did not include stakeholder interviews Urban Habitats was nonetheless able to incorporate conversations with certain key stakeholders and local organisations supplemented with site visits conducted of course by train and bicycle!  Whilst not formally involved in the study both the Dyfi Biosphere and the Centre for Alternative Technology, where Mark Drane is a visiting lecturer kindly provided invaluable insights including access to previous studies which were invaluable.  Systems mapping was also undertaken as part of this brief and included obtaining feedback at a stakeholder event associated with the main HIA.

What this study contributed was to place a public health lens on the questions of climate change including considering population groups across different community profiles and settlement typologies such as coastal or inland and of varying sizes.  There were many practical examples of communities taking action already such as the Talybont Floodees responding to inland surface water flooding and Greener Tywyn seeking to encourage sustainable living in coastal town.

Climate change is a problem that presents new challenges for public health requiring us to extend the lens of research.  At the same time it is essential to value community knowledge and experience and whilst this study was not participatory care was nevertheless taken to carefully represent the available views of communities.

What we learned

The village and beach at Fairbourne

It was invaluable to find out more about the varied ecosystems of the Dyfi biosphere and the huge value that they have including to address climate change.

We were forced to think about how to break down the enormous topic of climate change into manageable chunks.  System mapping helped but also demonstrated the complexity of the situation even tracing one issue through a web of connections.  And as with any HIA the evidence base is constantly developing which simply highlights the need for continuous and ongoing work in this area.

We also enjoyed cycling around the Biosphere – albeit in torrential rain!

Report: findings from the HIA will inform Public Bodies across Wales and will be contained in a Public Health Wales report for publication in 2022.

Feedback

This relatable case study with real world examples from the Dyfi Biosphere is an important component of this health impact assessment (HIA) of climate change in Wales and is included as a case study.  Urban Habitats developed our early concept with the suggestion and opportunity to consider a range of communities across the Biosphere and the potential health and wellbeing impacts of climate change on them.

This was also clearly informed by the practice’s ethical approach to their work – valuing the knowledge of communities and taking a sensitive approach to understanding the experiences of people who are living with the impacts of climate change today.

Knowledge of the issues, the geography, and a willingness to get out in the rain on a bike and understand the context on the ground were all equally important ways of working that Mark Drane and Urban Habitats brought to the work!

Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health / Programme Director for Health Impact Assessment, Public Health Wales

Want to know more?

A are you keen to think about health & wellbeing in your community, work, or organisation?  We love to listen!  get in touch

The River Dyfi