Urban climate change vulnerability and preparedness

Climate change is bringing new challenges for public health in urban settings. As a multiplier of health risks, a wide range of health impacts from climate change are expected. These impacts are likely to be highly inequitable, affecting chiefly the most vulnerable people in the poorest and least prepared countries. From injuries and noncommunicable conditions to food-borne, waterborne and vector-borne infectious diseases, local health systems in cities will have to cope with and adapt to additional needs brought about by changing climate patterns and increasing average temperatures.

Our work

WKC’s work in this area is fully aligned with the WHO work plan on climate change and health, endorsed in 2009 by the World Health Assembly and the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. The work plan encompasses advocacy, partnerships, science and evidence, and health systems strengthening. Our work focuses on urban health vulnerability assessment and adaptation to climate change, mainly through relevant research and policy advice.The generation of retrospective and prospective evidence of urban linkages between climate and health is a fundamental step towards an effective and equitable adaptation of cities to climate change impacts.

Urban linkages between climate and health

The causal pathways between climate variability and human health are often poorly understood. Commonly, the linkages between climate and disease are studied at scales that are not locally relevant, leaving urban health systems with a poor basis of evidence to undertake needs assessments and planning for climate-sensitive health outcomes. The idea is to generate city-based scientific evidence on the links between climate change and health, assess local vulnerability to climate impacts and contribute to making urban settings prepared for and resilient to climate-induced risks – diseases, emergencies and disasters.

Climate change and adaptation vulnerability assessment for health in cities

Because of their concentration of people, decision-making power, resources and know-how, urban settings through politically committed leaders and managers are in a key position to lead and govern the quest to mitigate carbon emissions and adapt to the share of climate change impacts that are now unavoidable. On the side of adaptation, many cities are currently unprepared or ill-prepared to face the additional health impacts brought about by climate change. City vulnerability and adaptation assessments can provide important lessons for policy-makers and key stakeholders on how to prepare for and deal with climate change impacts on health in an effective and equitable way. WHO in partnership with regions and country offices is undertaking studies in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Kathmandu, Nepal and La Paz, Bolivia.