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Understanding the impact of climate change on health

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Climate change is a severe and continually growing threat to human health globally.

The World Health Organization has estimated that climate change will cause 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.

This is an area that urgently needs research investment, which is why we're making £4 million available to support new research.

We will all be affected by climate change, but those most vulnerable include children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Despite being a relatively small contributor to climate change, people in sub-Saharan Africa are also likely to be among the most severely impacted communities.

As a result, we’ll be focusing our efforts on sub-Saharan Africa. By stimulating exciting research ideas, in the countries where they will have the most impact, these awards will act as a catalyst for establishing continued support, future funding and ground-breaking research which could have a real impact on people’s lives.

How can climate change affect health?

Extreme weather patterns and events and rising temperatures can have serious consequences for human health.

We already know there are various ways this can happen . Increases in temperature and changes in climate can increase the length of the seasons and widen the geographical areas that vector-borne and parasitic diseases (ones that are transmitted by things like mosquitoes, ticks and worms) - such as malaria, dengue fever, and schistosomiasis – can be caught in .

Exposure to water-borne diseases like cholera and dysentery can also be affected by weather events like flooding and excessive rainfall, which become more frequent with the changing climate . It’s not just infectious health outcomes that are impacted by these weather events either – they can lead to more contact with environmental toxins, pollutants and cancer-causing chemicals through water contamination and sewage .

Extreme heat (through increases in temperature) has also been linked to greater cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. On top of this, increasing urbanisation and moving populations due to climate change can mean that disease prevention and control measures become more complicated.

Climate change in sub-Saharan Africa

We also know that some people will be more affected by climate change than others; in particular, countries in sub-Saharan Africa are among those most likely to be affected by the impacts of climate change.

We are looking to support mutually beneficial partnerships between mid-career researchers in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK, that will be equitable and sustainable, developing both researchers’ careers and increasing the impact of their research. In these collaborations, the partners will conduct research to further our understanding of how climate change can impact health, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on infectious diseases and non-infectious health outcomes that disproportionately affect tropical regions.

Urgent, major action is needed to respond to the health challenges posed by climate change, and the research projects funded by this scheme will need to demonstrate a clear view to action.

Apply for the Impact of Climate Change on Health Research Grants 2022

To find out more and to apply for the Impact of Climate Change on Health Research Grant, please see the information provided on our funding call page, and submit your application via our online system by Tuesday 13 September 2022.

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