Current and future temperature-related mortality and morbidity in the UK: a public health and climate change perspective

Lead Research Organisation: London Sch of Hygiene and Trop Medicine
Department Name: Public Health and Policy

Abstract

Several scientific studies have demonstrated that exposure to extreme outdoor temperatures increases the risk of mortality and morbidity. The interest in this risk factor has grown considerably in the last few years, with the mounting evidence that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather episodes, and consequently the associated health impacts. Governments and international health organisations are under pressure to respond, primarily through the implementation of effective public health and climate policies, which must be based on solid scientific assessments. However, our knowledge on how non-optimal temperature affect human health, and how these risks will change in a warming planet, is still limited.
This project will address these gaps by offering a comprehensive assessment of current and future health risks associated to non-optimal outdoor temperature and climate change in the England and Wales. The research proposal is structured in a detailed plan of four work packages (WPs). In the first WP, the research team will link country-wide health databases with high-resolution environmental measures, and will then apply advanced epidemiological methods to study how exposure to heat and cold increase the risk of mortality and hospital admissions. The evaluation will be extended in WP2 to assess through meta-regression and machine learning methods how the risk varies across small geographical areas and time, and to define differential vulnerability levels of the population in terms of contextual characteristics, such as local climate, socio-economic conditions, infrastructure, and urban settings. This information will be used in WP3 to quantify excess mortality and morbidity at small-area level in the last 35 years, and then to project health impacts under future scenarios that account for several changes, such as trends in global warming, socio-economic pathways, and potential public health policies. The last WP will create repositories to store the full set of results from the project, and will develop easy-to-use web tools to extract, summarise, display, and map risk measures, and to perform scenario simulations. These resources will be released for free and in open-access form, and will be made available to a broad range of users including scientists, public health experts, journalists, and the general public.
The project will provide a detailed picture of health risks associated to heat and cold, and will help identify drivers of vulnerability and resilience within the population of England and Wales. This information is critical to perform an evidence-based quantification of potential benefits related to climate and public health policies, and to compare alternative mitigation and adaptation strategies to reduce the health burden of global warming at national and international level.

Technical Summary

This project will provide a comprehensive evaluation of current and future health risks associated to non-optimal outdoor temperature in England and Wales, by assessing excess mortality and morbidity at small-area level and then projecting impacts under scenarios that account for climate change, socio-economic and demographic trends, and adaptive strategies. The research proposal is structured in a detailed plan of four work packages (WPs).
In the first WP, the research team will link country-wide databases of mortality and hospital admissions with high-resolution environmental measures, and will then apply advanced epidemiological designs to obtain estimate of potentially complex temperature-health associations varying across small administrative areas. The evaluation will be extended in WP2 to assess geographical and temporal differences in risks, applying cutting-edge meta-regression and machine learning models to characterise vulnerability patterns in terms of climatological, socio-economic, infrastructural, and urban setting characteristics. This information will be used in WP3 to quantify excess mortality and morbidity at small-area level in the historical period, and then to project health impacts under composite scenarios of global warming, socio-economic pathways, and potential public health policies. The last WP will create open-access documented repositories and easy-to-use web tools to extract, summarise, and display risk measures, and to perform scenario simulations.
The project will provide a detailed picture of health risks associated to heat and cold, and will help identify drivers of vulnerability and resilience within the population of England and Wales. This information is critical to perform evidence-based assessments of potential benefits related to climate and public health policies, and to compare alternative mitigation and adaptation strategies to reduce the health burden of global warming at national and international level.

Publications

10 25 50