Press release

£23mn for global research to protect human health from climate change

Wellcome announces funding for 11 transdisciplinary teams across 17 countries to investigate the health impacts of climate change.

Transdisciplinary teams across 17 countries chosen by Wellcome to deliver projects that can inform scalable policy solutions.

Wellcome has awarded £22.7mn to research projects aimed at protecting people from climate-related health risks.

The 11 awards include projects in India, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Brazil and the UK with research spanning 17 countries in total [1].

The research projects were designed with action in mind – they aim to highlight the health impacts of climate change and influence policy development to protect human health.

Wellcome has awarded funding to a diverse range of projects, which include:

  •  A research team under Dr Elizabeth Kimani-Murage (African Population and Health Research Center, Kenya) exploring how climate change affects the nutrition and mental health of women and children in the Eastern African drylands. Researchers will work with decision makers and find options for targeted action to address the health impacts of climate change.
  • Dr Anh Ngoc Vu (National Centre for Social Research, UK) and her research team exploring how the health of Vietnamese outdoor workers is impacted by climate change. Outdoor workers in urban areas in the Global South are highly exposed to climate change. The researchers will work with stakeholders including government agencies to inform policy to better protect outdoor workers.
  •  Professor Andrea Mechelli (King’s College London, UK) and his team investigating how extreme heat impacts the mental health of urban communities in London. The researchers will engage with people with lived experience of mental illness, policy experts and grassroots organisations. 

2023, the hottest year on record, demonstrated the devastating effects of climate change on health – from an increase in heat-related deaths to a rise in dengue fever in South Asia. 2024 could be hotter, and increased temperatures means that health risks will increase. The impacts will be felt in low-and-middle income countries the hardest given many have greater exposure to climate change and weaker healthcare systems.

The funding is the first round of Wellcome’s new Climate Impact Awards. This funding programme was designed to be focused on finding scalable policy solutions for communities experiencing health risks brought by climate change. Researchers funded by Wellcome will work with decision makers, such as ministers of health and agriculture, to inform evidenced-based climate action. The aim is for this funding to catalyse practical changes in policy at a local and national level, to protect human health from the impacts of climate of change. 

Madeleine Thomson, Head of Climate Impacts and Adaptation at Wellcome said:

“In this past year, we have seen how climate change has fuelled deadly heatwaves around the globe, leading to a rise in heat-related deaths and illness. Our funding intends to address such health effects, by working closely with local partners to find evidence-based solutions for communities most affected by climate change.

“By enhancing our understanding of the health effects of climate change, we can drive policy change in a way that improves the health and wellbeing of those who need it most urgently.”

Andrea Mechelli, Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health at King’s College London said: 

"We know that extreme heat can have negative effects on our mental health, and research suggests that often its adverse impacts are felt more acutely by those living in urban areas. However, we lack evidence on how and why this occurs, particularly within the UK, where extreme heat is a recent phenomenon."

"This funding gives us the opportunity to address this knowledge gap and investigate possible mitigating factors, such as access to green spaces and social support networks. Empowered with this knowledge, our hope is that we can develop preventative interventions reducing the risk for those who are most vulnerable.”

Wellcome is now accepting applications for the second round of the Climate Impacts Awards with grants of up to £2.5 million available.

Notes to Editors

[1] The £22,799,044 funding is split between 11 research projects across 17 countries. 


About Wellcome

Wellcome is a global charitable foundation which supports discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and we’re taking on three global health challenges: mental health, infectious disease and climate and health. Wellcome has committed to spending £16 billion over the next decade.