Even in the best-case scenarios of climate change our world is getting hotter.
This is already having a significant impact on people’s health and it’s only going to get worse.
We need to act quickly to reduce global emissions and to limit any further impact of global warming. However, finding ways to adapt to a heating planet is just as important for protecting the people and communities most vulnerable to climate change.
That’s why we’re supporting research teams to investigate different ways to manage and limit the health effects of heat in the communities that need it most.
Finding ways to adapt to global warming
We need interventions that work in real settings – not just under laboratory conditions.
From cool roofs in India to tree-planting in Tanzania, this funding will support teams to find practical solutions that are acceptable and affordable in the locations for which they are intended.
Led by researchers from low- or middle-income countries, each project will develop methods for testing and evaluating heat adaptation interventions across a variety of outcomes like health, equity and gender impacts.
We also want to produce evidence for policymakers and practitioners to help them understand the impact of climate change and demonstrate which interventions are relevant to the local context, scalable, implementable and sustainable in the long run.
Funding for heat adaptation research
Through our Heat adaptation: evaluating interventions to help manage the health effects of heat funding scheme, we’re providing £17.5 million of support for research in 11 countries.
By the end of the 5-year award, these projects will have delivered a high-quality study testing and evaluating a new or existing heat adaptation intervention with the potential to change policy and practice in low- or middle-income countries.
Find out more about each research project:
Dr Faraja Chiwanga
Organisation: LEAD Foundation
Location of research: Tanzania
Tree restoration plays an important role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, we don’t yet have evidence of the human health benefits of this restoration or the impact it has on reducing heat stress. Dr Chiwanga will lead this comprehensive study to evaluate how trees can be used to alter microclimates and protect Tanzania’s millions of outdoor agricultural workers from the long-term health risks of heat exposure. The research will build on land restoration work in central Tanzania which has championed local farmers to regenerate nine million native trees in three years.
Dr Collin Tukuitonga and Dr Aditi Bunker
Organisation: University of Auckland
Location of research: Mexico, Burkina Faso, India, Niue
Low- and middle-income countries are severely affected by climate change, but evidence for guiding uptake of suitable interventions is currently limited. Dr Tukuitonga and Dr Bunker will lead a global multi-centre trial in Burkina Faso, India, Niue and Mexico to assess the effects of affordable, sunlight-reflecting cool-roof coatings — an effective home cooling intervention — on health, environmental and economic outcomes for vulnerable populations. The findings will inform global adaptation and policy responses to increasing heat exposure from climate change.
Professor Mark New and Professor Lara Dugas
Organisation: University of Cape Town
Location of research: Ghana, South Africa
Despite a high vulnerability to heat-related health risks, interventions which investigate and implement heat adaptions are lacking in sub-Saharan Africa. Professors New and Dugas, and their collaborators, hope to address this evidence gap by evaluating physical and behavioural adaptations among manual labourers and low-income house dwellers in four study sites across Ghana and South Africa. The study will also develop and test heat warning systems to support these adaptations and gather high-quality data on physiological and mental health, as well as key climate, environmental and socio-economic variables.
Professor Matthew Chersich
Organisation: Wits Health Consortium
Location of research: South Africa, Zimbabwe
The negative impacts of heat exposure on maternal and child health outcomes are well documented, but there is little evidence to help us understand how best to reduce the risk of extreme heat on pregnant women. Professor Chersich will lead this study investigating a range of potential protective mechanisms, covering behavioural, built environment and environmental innovations. The team will work across six maternity facilities and the surrounding communities of urban areas in South Africa and semi-rural parts of Zimbabwe.
Dr Horacio Riojas Rodríguez
Organisation: Instituto Nacional De Salud Publica
Location of research: Mexico
Rural communities in low- and middle-income countries are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. Heat action plans that aide the public in understanding and evaluating their own risks and take the appropriate steps for prevention and preparedness have shown consistently positive results. Working in six rural communities in southern Mexico, Dr Riojas and the team will co-develop, test and evaluate a user-driven heat-health action plan, including an early warning and surveillance system, capacity building, prevention education and communication tools.
Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta
Organisation: The Aga Khan University
Location of research: Pakistan
South Asia is one of the regions most affected by increasing global temperatures and extreme heat events, but more evidence is needed to determine the most appropriate strategies for heat adaptation and harm reduction. Through community participation and pilot testing, this study will assess a possible package of heat-health interventions in representative urban and rural settings in Pakistan. Professor Bhutta and the team will also review global evidence of community-based heat adaptation strategies and use this to evaluate and implement a locally appropriate heat adaptation and reduction plan.
Professor Purnamita Dasgupta
Organisation: Institute of Economic Growth
Location of research: India
Heat stress is a growing concern in India, although the magnitude and pattern of health risks and impacts are not well understood. As global temperatures rise, effective interventions are needed to protect those most at risk. Professor Dasgupta will lead field studies in Bhubaneswar and Jodhpur to assess the effectiveness of interventions within heat action plans for reducing heat-related health risks for children, elderly and outdoor workers. The team will also identify, pilot and evaluate additional household heat adaptation measures at selected field sites in these two cities in India.
Professor Tin Tin Su
Organisation: Monash University
Location of research: Malaysia
In Southeast Asia, annual heat-related mortality is projected to increase by 295% by 2030 if there is no adaptation. To strengthen heat adaptation in Malaysia, Professor Tin Tin Su and her team will evaluate simple behavioural and structural interventions that have the potential to protect vulnerable communities from the health effects of extreme heat. They will introduce interventions that will improve heat health literacy and fluency for individuals and communities and test a passive cooling technology to decrease indoor exposure to extreme heat.
Dr Bernard Abong'o
Organisation: Kenya Medical Research Institute
Location of research: Kenya
Global warming is expected to exacerbate heat-related illness, especially in Africa. This not only has an impact on an individual’s health, but also their ability to work, and therefore reduces the economic productivity at a community level. Simple modifications to doors, windows and eaves in a home could help to alleviate these effects. Dr Abong’o will lead a team investigating the effectiveness of simple housing modifications, assessing their impact on cooling internal temperatures as well as their ability to lower the incidence of malaria by preventing indoor entry of mosquitoes.
We know that climate change threatens human health at almost every level.
But there are gaps in scientific understanding of these impacts and a lack of consensus on the most effective ways to protect people's health as the world continues to warm.
That’s why Wellcome is funding a transformation in the scale of research into the impacts of climate change on human health. However, understanding the risks is not enough – it's crucial that this evidence can then be used to advocate for changes in policy and practice around the world.
This funding will begin to fill some of these gaps and provide practical, effective solutions for the people that need them most urgently.