A Systems Understanding Underpins Actions at the Climate and Health Nexus

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 1;18(5):2398. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18052398.


Multiple sectors-health and non-health-can determine the health and well-being of people and the condition of the socio-ecological environment on which it depends. At the climate and human health nexus, a systems-based understanding of climate change and health should inform all stages of the policy process from problem conceptualization to design, implementation, and evaluation. Such an understanding should guide countries, their partners, and donors to incorporate health in strategic climate actions based on how health is affected by, and plays a role in, the dynamic interactions across economic, environmental, and societal domains. A systems-based approach to sustainable development has been widely promoted but operationalizing it for project level and policy development and implementation has not been well articulated. Such an approach is especially valuable for informing how to address climate change and health together through policy actions which can achieve multiple, mutually reinforcing goals. This commentary article describes strategic steps including the complementary use of health impact assessment, quantification of health impacts, and linking climate and health actions to national and global policy processes to apply a systems-based approach for developing climate mitigation and adaptation actions with human health benefits.

Keywords: climate change; health equity; planetary health; systems thinking.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Climate Change*
  • Health Impact Assessment
  • Humans
  • Sustainable Development*