Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Useful articles on co-benefits of addressing climate change, obesity and other public health issues

Classified as: very useful research

If you haven't already seen it, the following article is very relevant for those working in health promotion and is of general interest. As far as I know it's not available publicly,  but if you have access to a library you should be able to order a copy. I've included the abstract below.

Melanie Lowe ‘Obesity and climate change mitigation in Australia: overview and analysis of policies with co-benefits’ , Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health [Aust N Z J Public Health], ISSN: 1753-6405, 2014 Feb; Vol. 38 (1), pp. 19-24; Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; PMID: 24494940


Objective: To provide an overview of the shared structural causes of obesity and climate  change, and analyse policies that could be implemented in Australia to both equitably reduce obesity rates and contribute to mitigating climate change. 

Methods: Informed by the political economy of health theoretical framework, a review was conducted of the literature on the shared causes of, and solutions to, obesity and climate change. Policies with potential co-benefits for climate change and obesity were then analysed based upon their feasibility and capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and equitably  reduce obesity rates in Australia.

Results: Policies with potential co-benefits fit within three broad categories: those to replace  car use with low-emissions, active modes of transport; those to improve diets and reduce  emissions from the food system; and macro-level economic policies to reduce the over-consumption of food and fossil fuel energy.

Conclusion: Given the complex causes of both problems, it is argued that a full spectrum of complementary strategies across different sectors should be utilised.

Implications: Such an approach would have significant public health, social and environmental benefits.

Key words: obesity, climate change, political economy of health, policy analysis, co-benefits

People working in PCP health promotion are likely to be aware of this I should think. I had seen it myself before, but came across it again recently and thought how practically useful it is, for example for those who are funded to work on obesity related projects but would also like to have an environmental focus in their work. 

If you have been able to make use of this evidence in your work, I'd be really interested to hear about it. You can respond in the comments below or by contacting me direct on my email (see side panel).

Here's another relevant article, from Canada. I'll probably come across more as I work through the review I'm doing, so it may be worth checking back if you are interested in this topic.

Cheng JJ  & Berry P ‘Health co-benefits and risks of public health adaptation strategies to climate change: a review of current literature’  International Journal Of Public Health [Int J Public Health] 2013 Apr; Vol. 58 (2), pp. 305-11.


Objectives: Many public health adaptation strategies have been identified in response to climate change. This report reviews current literature on health co-benefits and risks of these strategies to gain a better understanding of how they may affect health.

Methods: A literature review was conducted electronically using English language literature from January 2000 to March 2012. Of 812 articles identified, 22 peer-reviewed articles that directly addressed health co-benefits or risks of adaptation were included in the review.
Results: The co-benefits and risks identified in the literature most commonly relate to improvements in health associated with adaptation actions that affect social capital and urban design. Health co-benefits of improvements in social capital have positive influences on mental health, independently of other determinants. Risks included reinforcing existing misconceptions regarding health. Health co-benefits of urban design strategies included reduced obesity, cardiovascular disease and improved mental health through increased physical activity, cooling spaces (e.g., shaded areas), and social connectivity. Risks included pollen allergies with increased urban green space, and adverse health effects from heat events through the use of air conditioning.
Conclusions: Due to the current limited understanding of the full impacts of the wide range of existing climate change adaptation strategies, further research should focus on both unintended positive and negative consequences of public health adaptation.
A more policy-related discussion with a focus on non-communicable disease. There is a useful grid of expected co-benefits in the article:

Friel S, Bowen K, Campbell-Lendrum D, Frumkin H, McMichael AJ and  Rasanathan K ‘Climate change, noncommunicable diseases, and development: the relationships and common policy opportunities’ Annual Review Of Public Health [Annu Rev Public Health] 2011; Vol. 32, pp. 133-47


The rapid growth in noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including injury and poor mental health, in low- and middle-income countries and the widening social gradients in NCDs within most countries worldwide pose major challenges to health and social systems and to development more generally. As Earth's surface temperature rises, a consequence of human-induced climate change, incidences of severe heat waves, droughts, storms, and floods will increase and become more severe. These changes will bring heightened risks to human survival and will likely exacerbate the incidence of some NCDs, including cardiovascular disease, some cancers, respiratory health, mental disorders, injuries, and malnutrition. These two great and urgent contemporary human challenges-to improve global health, especially the control of NCDs, and to protect people from the effects of climate change-would benefit from alignment of their policy agendas, offering synergistic opportunities to improve population and planetary health. Well-designed climate change policy can reduce the incidence of major NCDs in local populations.