Priorities for research to support local authority action on health and climate change: a study in England

Pete Lampard*, Shainur Premji, Joy Adamson, Laura Bojke, Karen Glerum-Brooks, Su Golder, Hilary Graham, Dina Jankovic, Dagmar Zeuner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Evidence is needed to support local action to reduce the adverse health impacts of climate change and maximise the health co-benefits of climate action. Focused on England, the study identifies priority areas for research to inform local decision making. Methods: Firstly, potential priority areas for research were identified from a brief review of UK policy documents, and feedback invited from public and policy stakeholders. This included a survey of Directors of Public Health (DsPH) in England, the local government officers responsible for public health. Secondly, rapid reviews of research evidence examined whether there was UK evidence relating to the priorities identified in the survey. Results: The brief policy review pointed to the importance of evidence in two broad areas: (i) community engagement in local level action on the health impacts of climate change and (ii) the economic (cost) implications of such action. The DsPH survey (n = 57) confirmed these priorities. With respect to community engagement, public understanding of climate change’s health impacts and the public acceptability of local climate actions were identified as key evidence gaps. With respect to economic implications, the gaps related to evidence on the health and non-health-related costs and benefits of climate action and the short, medium and longer-term budgetary implications of such action, particularly with respect to investments in the built environment. Across both areas, the need for evidence relating to impacts across income groups was highlighted, a point also emphasised by the public involvement panel. The rapid reviews confirmed these evidence gaps (relating to public understanding, public acceptability, economic evaluation and social inequalities). In addition, public and policy stakeholders pointed to other barriers to action, including financial pressures, noting that better evidence is insufficient to enable effective local action. Conclusions: There is limited evidence to inform health-centred local action on climate change. More evidence is required on public perspectives on, and the economic dimensions of, local climate action. Investment in locally focused research is urgently needed if local governments are to develop and implement evidence-based policies to protect public health from climate change and maximise the health co-benefits of local action.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1965
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
To identify key research priorities to support action by Local Authorities (LAs), we undertook two key activities: (1) identifying and prioritising the research information that LAs need and (2) conducting rapid reviews of research on these priorities to identify evidence gaps (Fig. ). This work was undertaken as part of a 6 month study funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), the major funder of health research in England. The study was approved by the Research Governance Committee, Department of Health Sciences, University of York (ref: Re: HSRGC/2022/516/F: Local authority-level research priorities on climate change).

Funding Information:
Framing these perspectives was an appreciation of budgetary constraints, noted by both public and policy stakeholders. In the UK, LAs are funded by local taxes and central government grants, and have been subject to increasing financial pressures [, ]. Central government funding of LAs in England has fallen by 75% since 2010 [], disproportionately affecting disadvantaged areas most dependent on central government grants []. LAs are therefore operating under ‘austerity localism’, where funding has been squeezed across a decade in which the political narrative has been about empowering local communities and their elected governments [, ]. These constraints both underline the need for research in the areas highlighted by the study - and make clear that more and better evidence is not sufficient to enable effective local action.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.


  • Adaptation
  • Economic consequences
  • Evidence
  • Mitigation
  • Public acceptability
  • Public involvement
  • Targeted reviews

Cite this