NIH unveils framework for climate change initiative
January/ February 2022 | Volume 21 Number 1
Fogarty board member Dr. Judy Wasserheit made the case for a strong global health focus in the new NIH climate change initiative and said she will be cheering for its success.
NIH has announced the strategic framework for its new $100 million climate change and health initiative. The project is intended to reduce health threats from climate change across the lifespan and build health resilience in individuals, communities and nations around the world, especially those at the highest risk.
The NIH-wide effort is being co-chaired by Fogarty and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), in collaboration with 23 Institutes, Centers and Offices. The concept was endorsed by the NIEHS advisory council in November 2021.
“It is clear that climate change greatly elevates threats to human health across a wide range of illnesses and injuries that are being studied throughout NIH,” NIEHS Director Dr. Rick Woychik said during a presentation to council members. Woychik chairs the climate change initiative’s executive committee, which includes six peers from participating I/Cs, including Fogarty.
“There is no other issue that is as global as climate change,” stressed Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass. “It affects absolutely everyone, everywhere.”
Echoing the sentiment, Fogarty advisory board member Dr. Judy Wasserheit suggested climate change is the poster child for global health. “Done right, this could be one of the most impactful initiatives that NIH has ever launched,” she said. The University of Washington professor noted there has been little intervention research related to climate change to date and applauded the team for incorporating implementation science and capacity building into the initiative. “If we’re really committed to addressing equity issues, we have to acknowledge that the impacts are already hitting populations in low- and middle-income countries disproportionately,” Wasserheit said. “Indeed, there is little recognition that soon climate change is likely to start undoing decades of progress in global health in many of these countries.”
Funding for the plan is included in the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request for the agency. The initiative’s first aim will be to leverage existing grant programs, cohorts and networks to support projects that can be implemented effectively in the near term, while leaving substantial flexibility for subsequent years. The framework reflects extensive input and coordination with organizations andacademic scientists to collect, analyze and synthesize diverse views, needs and opportunities. Core elements include health effects research, health equity, intervention research, and training and capacity building.
The research plan is based on the following objectives:
- Identify risks and optimize benefits to the health of individuals, communities and populations from actions to mitigate or adapt to climate change.
- Develop the necessary research infrastructure and workforce to enable the generation of timely and relevant knowledge, drawing from the full spectrum of biomedical disciplines.
- Leverage partnerships with other scientific and social disciplines and organizations to achieve the most impactful results.
- Innovate across the research translation continuum to ensure findings are credible, accessible and actionable for achieving these goals.
Fogarty is represented on the initiative’s steering committee by Drs. Flora Katz and Joshua Rosenthal.
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