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Compendium on methods and tools to evaluate impacts of, and vulnerability and adaptation to, climate change

WHO Guidelines: Methods of Assessing Human Health Vulnerability and Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change

Provides information on qualitative and quantitative methods of assessing human health vulnerability and public health adaptation to climate change. Objectives and the steps for assessing vulnerability and adaptation are described. For a range of health outcomes, methods are presented for evaluation of evidence that climate change could affect morbidity and mortality; projection of future impacts; and identification of adaptation strategies, policies, and measures to reduce current and future negative effects.

The health outcomes considered are morbidity and mortality from heat and heat-waves, air pollution, floods and windstorms, and food insecurity; vector-borne diseases; water- and food-borne diarrheal diseases; and adverse health outcomes associated with stratospheric ozone depletion.

Appropriate Use To conduct an assessment of current and future human health vulnerability of specific populations to climate change and to develop appropriate responses.
Scope National or regional scales.
Key Output Description of the current distribution and burden of climate-sensitive diseases; description of the adaptation baseline; evaluation of the health implications of the potential impact of climate change on other sectors; estimates of the future potential health impact of climate change using scenarios of future climate change, population growth, and other factors; and identification of additional adaptation measures to reduce current and future vulnerability.
Key Input

A basic assessment can be conducted using readily available information and data such as previous assessments, literature reviews by the IPCC and others, and available region-specific data.

A more comprehensive assessment could include a literature search focused on the goals of the assessment, some quantitative assessment using available data, some quantification of effects, and a formal peer review of results. An even more comprehensive assessment could include a detailed literature review, collecting new data and/or generating new models to estimate impacts, extensive analysis of quantification and sensitivity, formal uncertainty analysis, and formal peer review.

Ease of Use Can be used by anyone familiar with epidemiological and risk assessment methods.
Training Required Little
Training Available In discussion for Central Asia
Computer Requirements Depends on level of assessment, from none to computers with adequate power to run models.
Documentation See References

Assessment of the potential burden of climate-sensitive diseases and identification of response options to reduce vulnerability. Still being tested so examples of existing applications are few.

Contacts for Framework, Documentation, Technical Assistance

Bettina Menne, WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, Via Francesco Crispi, 10 I-00187 Rome, Italy; e-mail:

Jacinthe Seguin, Climate Change and Health Office, Health Canada Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; website:

Sari Kovats, LSHTM, Dept of Public Health and Policy, Keppel St., London WC1E 7HT, England; e-mail:

Kristie L. Ebi, Exponent, 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 355, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA; e-mail:

Cost First 2000 copies free; additional reprints will have marginal costs.

WHO. 2003. Methods of Assessing Human Health Vulnerability and Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change. World Health Organization, Geneva. Available at pdf-icon