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The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Change and Health

The HPRU in Environmental Change and Health provides research to support decision making relating to the impacts and responses to the environmental changes that affect our health. 

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About

The HPRU in Environmental Change and Health provides research to support decision-making relating to the impacts of climate change and other environmental changes that affect human health. 

Research

Our research focuses on the following topic areas: 

  • Housing and climate change
  • Indicators of climate change impacts and responses
  • Food systems and agriculture 
  • Flooding and coastal change
  • Heat, drought, wildfires
  • Green and blue space
  • Vector-borne disease and other infections
  • The health benefits of low carbon development  
  • Risks from climate change impacts external to the UK
  • Threats to planetary health beyond climate change
  • Air pollution interventions
About us
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About the NIHR HPRU in Environmental Change and Health

The NIHR HPRU Environmental Change and Health is one of 14 HPRUs across England, part of a £58.7 million investment by the NIHR to protect the health of the nation. The NIHR HPRU Environmental Change and Health is a partnership between UKHSA and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with University College London and the Met Office.

The NIHR HPRU in Environmental Change and Health undertakes a programme of research and training to improve understanding of the impacts on health of climate change and other environmental challenges, the actions needed to protect health, and the opportunities for improving health of policies aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

The research is carried out under three themes (Impacts and MonitoringResponses and Health Protection; and Interventions and Interactions) through a set of specific research topics: housing and climate change; indicators for tracking the impact and responses to climate change; the spread of climate sensitive diseases; floods and coastal erosion; heat, droughts and wildfires; the benefits of increasing natural vegetation and water bodies in cities; environmental and health benefits from food and agriculture policy; threats to health from disturbance of the Earth’s natural systems; threats to climate change events external to the UK; and the integrated analysis of policies for health and sustainability. In addition, cross-cutting research addresses the modelling of population impacts, cost-benefit analysis, health inequalities and behaviour change.

About HPRUs

Each NIHR HPRU undertakes high quality research that is used by UKHSA to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.

The NIHR HPRUs focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing, and play a pivotal role in maintaining and growing UKHSA’s scientific expertise and future workforce. The multidisciplinary centres of excellence also deliver responsive research to tackle emerging or potential public health emergencies.

NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) undertake high quality research that enhances the ability of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to protect the public’s health and minimise the health impact of emergencies. 

Find out more about HPRUs

About the NIHR

NIHR's mission is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR was established in 2006 and is primarily funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. 

Working in partnership with the NHS, universities, local government, other research funders, patients and the public, the NIHR delivers and enables world-class research that transforms people’s lives, promotes economic growth and advances science. 

Find out more about the NIHR

Our team
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Collaborating institutions

LSHTM (Leading institution)

  • Lead: Professor Paul Wilkinson - Professor in Environmental Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society

Met Office

  • Lead: Professor Rosa Barciela - Strategic Head of Health Science Integration

UK Health Security Agency

  • Lead: Professor Raquel Duarte-Davidson - Head of Chemicals and Environmental Effects Department and NPIS Commissioning Services, Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental (CRCE) Hazards

UCL

  • Lead: Professor Mike Davies - Professor of Building Physics and the Environment, Institute of Environmental Design and Engineering
Investigators

LSHTM

  • John Cairns – Professor of Health Economics, Department of Health Services Research and Policy
  • Alan Dangour – Professor of Food and Nutrition for Global Health, Department of Population Health
  • Antonio Gasparrini – Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • Rosemary Green – Associate Professor in Sustainability, Nutrition and Health, Department of Population Health
  • Andy Haines - Professor of Environmental Change and Public Health, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • Shakoor Hajat – Associate Professor in Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • Emma Hutchinson – Assistant Professor, Environmental Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • Sari Kovats - Associate Professor, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • Peninah Murage – Research Fellow, Environmental Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • James Milner – Assistant Professor, Mathematical Modelling, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • Ai Milojevic – Assistant Professor in Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • Grace Turner – Research Assistant, Environmental Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
  • Paul Wilkinson – HPRU Director, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Environments and Society

Met Office

  • Rosa Barciela – Strategic Head of Health Science Integration  

UK Health Security Agency

  • David Amankwaah – Environmental Scientist, Climate Change and Health Group, CRCE
  • Richard Amlôt - Behavioural Scientist, Behavioural Science Team, Behavioural Science Team, Emergency Response Department
  • Kerry Broom - Knowledge Mobilisation Manager, Centre for Radiation, CRCE
  • Holly Carter - Behavioural Scientist, Behavioural Science Team, Emergency Response Department
  • Raquel Duarte-Davidson - HPRU Co-Director, Head of Chemicals and Environmental Effects Department and NPIS Commissioning Services Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental Hazards
  • Emma Gillingham - Senior Environmental Scientist, Climate Change and Health Group, CRCE
  • Angela Hands - Public Health Programme Manager, Healthy Places Team, Health Improvement
  • Kayleigh Hansford - Senior Medical Entomologist, Medical Entomology & Zoonoses Ecology Group
  • Neelam Iqbal - Epidemiology & Surveillance Scientist, part of the Environmental Epidemiology Group 
  • Owen Landeg - Environmental Public Health Scientist, Extreme Events and Health Protection
  • Giovanni Leonardi - Consultant in Public Health and Head of the Environmental Epidemiology Group
  • Helen Macintyre - Senior Environmental and Public Health Scientist, Climate Change and Health Group, CRCE
  • Jolyon Medlock - Head of Medical Entomology, Medical Entomology & Zoonoses Ecology Group
  • Christina Mitsakou – Senior Environmental Public Health Scientist
  • Gordon Nichols - Consultant Epidemiologist, Climate Change and Health Group, CRCE
  • Emer O'Connell - Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection Group
  • Revati Phalkey - Head of Climate Change and Health Group, CRCE
  • Priyanjali Ratwatte - Behavioural Scientist, Climate Change and Health Group, CRCE, and Behavioural Science Team
  • John Thornes - Principal Climate Change Scientist, Climate Change and Health Group, CRCE
  • Helena Wehling - Behavioural Scientist, Behavioural Science Team, Behavioural Science Team 
  • Dale Weston - Behavioural Scientist, Behavioural Science Team

UCL

  • Mike Davies  –  Professor of Building Physics and Environment, Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering
  • Anna Mavrogianni – Associate Professor in Sustainable Building and Urban Design, Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering
  • Eleni Oikonomou – Research Associate in Energy and Building Modelling, Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering
  • Giorgos Petrou – Research Fellow in Building Physics and Urban Modelling (Environmental Change and Health), Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering
  • Phil Symonds – Lecturer in Machine Learning for Smart Buildings and Cities, Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering
  • Nici Zimmermann – Associate Professor, Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering 
PhD students
  • Rebecca Cole - Research project: Heatwaves and public health: evaluating the effectiveness of heat vulnerability indices
  • Ross Thompson - Research project:  Heatwaves and public health: evaluating the effectiveness of heat vulnerability indices
  • Sarah Najera-Espinosa - Research project:  Climate change and food and nutrition security in the UK
Engagement
PLANET logo

The HPRU has a Public Involvement and Engagement Group, known as PLANET (Public Led & Knowledge Engagement Team).

Researchers meet regularly with PLANET members to discuss research planning and the dissemination of results.

The Public Involvement and Engagement activities are coordinated by Dr Sari Kovats, Ms Grace Turner, Dr Peninah Murage and Dr Giorgos Petrou.

Read our Public Involvement and Engagement Strategy

PLANET Newsletters

PLANET Workshops

For further information contact Dr Sari Kovats.

External Advisory Board 

The HPRU researchers are advised by an international External Advisory Board.

Its membership is drawn from academia, public health, the private sector and the PLANET group.

It is chaired by Professor Sam Fankhauser, Research Director for the Oxford Martin Initiative on a Net Zero Recovery.

For further information, contact HPRU Coordinator Yomna Nasr.

 

 

 

 

Research
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Housing and climate change

Contact: Mike Davies 

This research investigates the impact of housing (building-related) climate change mitigation and adaptation measures with specific focus on critical changes in ventilation parameters and the balance of effects on health arising from changes to indoor air quality as well as adaptations to heat, especially in care homes.

Indicators of climate change impacts and responses

Contact: Giovanni Leonardi

This research focuses on indicators of climate change and health responses and preparedness, as well as the data sources and methods for tracking the effectiveness of policy actions. It also investigates a number of methodological issues, including the attribution of changes in health to weather/climate change and methods for tracking the ancillary effects of the low carbon transition.

Food systems and agriculture

Contact: Revati Phalkey

Climate change is increasingly affecting global foods systems and the agricultural industry, while the food and agriculture sector is responsible for 20% to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Research under this heading will assess the potential effects on health of lower GHG diets in the UK and the current and future implications of climate change on agriculture and food systems. 

Flooding and coastal change

Contact: Sari Kovats

Flooding and coastal change present threats to life and well-being as well as economic disruption. The UK coast is highly vulnerable to climate change due changes to wave height, increased frequency of storm surges, sea level rise and potential accelerated coastal erosion. The impacts of future flood impacts may disproportionally affect disadvantage communities. We are reviewing adaptation planning to consider who benefits and who is potentially disadvantaged by specific measures and policies.

Heat, drought, wildfires

Contact: Shakoor Hajat

Research under this heading will examine variations in heat risk to health over time and spatially, as well as behavioural insights and risk communication relating to extreme hot and cold weather events and the health impacts of droughts.

Green and blue space

Contact: Angela Hands

We are also undertaking research to map the connections between green/blue space and health and approaches to interventions. Specific projects will include an evidence review of the association between access to greenspace and health inequalities, how green/blue space is considered in English local authority planning policy and a qualitative study to gather behavioural insights relating to actions by local authority planning officers.

Vector-borne disease and other infections

Contact: Jolyon Medlock

This research examines issues relating to vector-borne disease (VBD) and other infectious disease risks in Europe and the UK under climate change. Disease transmission of VBDs may be influenced by environmental and ecological factors that affected by changes in weather and climate. Specific sub-projects will focus on climate suitability of the UK for Hyalomma species  as well as investigate how recent and future climate might be determining enzootic transmission risk areas for tick-borne encephalitis. Work has also been undertaken on weather and seasonal factors in coronavirus transmission to inform control measures for COVID-19.

The health benefits of low carbon development 

Contact: Paul Wilkinson 

We focus on the development and application of quantitative models to assess the impact on population health of policies for healthy sustainable development, including changes to air pollution, active transport, diet and extreme temperatures. Our work highlights the potential health benefits (the ‘co-benefits’) and potential unintended adverse effects of the low carbon transition. An important aspect of this work is to assess impacts on socio-economic inequalities.

Risks from climate change impacts external to the UK

Contact: Giovanni Leonardi

Topic 9 will focus on potential impacts in the UK of climate change-related impacts occurring beyond our shores, including impacts relating to food supplies, migration pressures and the spread of infectious diseases.

Threats to planetary health beyond climate change

Contact: Paul Wilkinson 

This last topic will consider other threats to planetary ‘boundaries’, including biodiversity loss, and the potential implications for human health. Most of this research will be undertaken in the final year of the HPRU.

Other research

Other research is focussing on air pollution interventions (contact: John ThornesChristina Mitsakou,) and the effect of air pollution on cognitive development (contact: Ai Milojevic). Analyses are also being undertaken in support of the UK’s fourth Climate Change Risk assessment (CCRA4), due for completion in 2027 and will inform the fourth NAP (National Adaptation Programme) for the period 2028-2032.

Publications
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2021

  • Housing energy efficiency and indoor air quality: radon exposure
  • Macintyre H. L., C. Heaviside, X.-M. Cai and R. Phalkey: The winter urban heat island: impacts on cold-related mortality in a highly urbanized European region for present and future climate Environ Internatl 2021; 154: 106530 doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.106530
  • Macintyre H. L., C. Heaviside, X.-M. Cai and R. Phalkey: Comparing temperature-related mortality impacts of cool roofs in winter and summer in a highly urbanized European region for present and future climate. Environ Internatl 2021; 154: 106606 doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.106606
  • Nichols, G., Gillingham, E., Macintyre, H., et al. Coronavirus seasonality, respiratory infections and weather. BMC Infectious Diseases (2021) preprint 10.21203/rs.3.rs-99539/v1
  • Ibbetson A, Milojevic A, Mavrogianni A, Oikonomou E, Jain N, Tsoulou I, Petrou G, Gupta R, Davies M, Wilkinson P. Mortality benefit of building adaptations to protect care home residents against heat risks in the context of uncertainty over loss of life expectancy from heat. Climate Risk Management 2021; 32:100307 ISSN 2212-0963 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crm.2021.100307
  • Milojevic A, Dutey-Magni P, Dearden L, Wilkinson P Lifelong exposure to air pollution and cognitive development in young children: the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Environ Res Lett 2021; 16(5): doi:10.1088/1748-9326/abe90c
  • Turner G, Green R, Alae-Carew C, Dangour AD. The association of dimensions of fruit and vegetable access in the retail food environment with consumption; a systematic review. Global Food Security 2021; 29:100528 (ISSN 2211-9124). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2021.100528

2020 

  • Todkill D, de Jesus Colon Gonzalez F, Morbey R, et al. Environmental factors associated with general practitioner consultations for allergic rhinitis in London, England: a retrospective time series analysis. BMJ Open 2020; 10:e036724 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-036724
  • Robin C, Beck C, Armstrong B, David Waite T, G James Rubin, English National Study of Flooding and Health Study Group, Isabel Oliver, Impact of flooding on health-related quality of life in England: results from the National Study of Flooding and Health. European J Publ Health 2020; 30(5):942–948 https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckaa049
  • Mulchandani, R., Armstrong, B., Beck, C.R. et al. The English National Cohort Study of Flooding & Health: psychological morbidity at three years of follow up. BMC Public Health 2020; 20:32  https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-8424-3
  • Thornes JE, Hickman A, Baker C et al. Proposed interventions to reduce noxious air pollution at Birmingham New Street station. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Transport, https://doi.org/10.1680/jtran.19.00061
Workshops and webinars
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2021/22

2020/21 

News
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News and media  

  • 24 February 2021. Previous HPRU Director, Sari Kovats, becomes recipient of the Burtoni Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the science of adaptation to climate change

Upcoming HPRU events

Links to other events 

  • CDC Climate and Health Webinar series
  • 2021 Global Conference on Health and Climate Change, 6-7 November 2021  Glasgow, UK - Special Focus on Climate Justice 
  • PHE Climate Change, Health, and the 2030 Agenda
    • Public Health England and the COP26 Unit will host a series of panel discussions monthly from July to December exploring horizon questions for climate change impacts and responses within the health sector. Each panel will include an academic researcher and representatives from policy and practice. The first session will focus on inequalities, followed by sessions on nutrition, infectious diseases, disasters, mental health, and climate resilience within health systems. Find out more about the events and book to attend.
Useful links
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