University of Tasmania

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Foreseeing and managing the health risks of climate change: a translational pilot project for local government

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 17:23 authored by Bell, EJ
Foreseeing and managing the health risks of climate change: a translational pilot project for local government Aim: Climate change is increasingly acknowledged as one of the biggest threats to human health in the 21st Century. It is in fact one of the biggest foreseeable health threats. This paper examines how local government could help their communities better foresee and manage the health threats of climate change. Background: Increasingly, local councils are assuming a leadership role in helping communities adapt to, and mitigate, climate change in areas such as planning decisions, natural resource management, and infrastructure development. The Australian Government’s Climate Change Adaptation Actions for Local Government places the onus on local government to make the development of health services one of their six key functions in helping their communities adapt to climate change. It is known that councils in Australia and overseas are already actively researching the health risks of climate change and have been developing a wide range of initiatives in this area. In a context in which local governments are emerging regional leaders in adaptation to climate change, a critical task in Australia and many other countries lies in better equipping them to manage the health effects of climate change. Unless local government and their communities have knowledge relevant to minimising the health burden of climate change, they and policy-makers cannot act to protect communities from the sometimes tragic and now far-reaching health effects of climate change. Our pilot project, a partnership between rural health leaders, climate scientists and peak local government organisations, aims to enable this to occur. Method: The paper describes early lessons learnt from our current pilot Tasmanian project, funded by the Office of Climate Change. It describes how this project is building on the work already being done in local government to help them and their communities better foresee health risks and act to minimise the rising health burden of climate change. It explains how we are developing an online tool to achieve this in an integrated way for Australia, so that data from both climate science and local risk assessment exercises can be better shared within a translational research model. It explains the key challenges and strategies in developing our pilot online tool to help find out what is happening or has happened (impacts) as well as what might happen (risks) and what should happen (adaptation) for the health and well-being of local communities. The paper also describes special issues in climate and health for local government in those regions where the health risks are great and the adaptive capacity is likely to be lowest: rural and regional Australia, the focus of our pilot tool. Conclusions: Health is the missing sector in too many impact and risk assessments done at local community level. Yet such exercises have critical importance for rural and regional Australia which often lies far from urban planning and service hubs. To be optimally useful to local government and policy-makers, health impact and risk assessments need to be online with sophisticated data sharing and data visualisation capacities. These assessment exercises must also be capable of helping local government efficiently bring together diverse community stakeholders and experts to reach consensus about the nature of the risks and appropriate responses. Our pilot project offers early indications that while such complex challenges lie ahead for local government and their researchers, they can be met within a translational research framework.


Publication title

Local government researchers' forum


Penny Findlay




School of Health Sciences


Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government, UTS

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Event title

Local government in transition

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Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Health policy evaluation

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    University Of Tasmania



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