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Quantifying the Health Benefits of Urban Climate Mitigation Actions: Current State of the Epidemiological Evidence and Application in Health Impact Assessments
journal contributionposted on 2021-11-15, 00:00 authored by M D Castillo, S C Anenberg, Z A Chafe, Rachel HuxleyRachel Huxley, L S Johnson, I Kheirbek, M Malik, J D Marshall, S Naidoo, M L Nelson, N V Pendleton, Y Sun, H van den Broek d'Obrenan, P L Kinney
While ambitious carbon reduction policies are needed to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, the costs of these policies can be balanced by wide ranging health benefits for local communities. Cities, responsible for ~70% of the world's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and home to a growing majority of the world's population, offer enormous opportunities for both climate action and health improvement. We aim to review the current state of knowledge on key pathways leading from carbon mitigation to human health benefits, and to evaluate our current ability to quantify health benefits for cities around the world. For example, because GHGs and air pollutants are both released during fuel combustion, reducing fuel burning can reduce both GHGs and air pollutants, leading to direct health benefits. Air quality improvements may be particularly important for city-scale climate action planning because the benefits occur locally and relatively immediately, compared with the global and long-term (typically, decades to centuries) benefits for the climate system. In addition to improved air quality, actions that promote active transport in cities via improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure can reap large cardiovascular health benefits via increased physical activity. Exposure to green space has been associated with beneficial health outcomes in a growing number of epidemiological studies and meta-analyses conducted around the world. Finally, noise is an underappreciated environmental risk factor in cities which can be addressed through actions to reduce motor vehicle traffic and other noise sources. All of these environmental health pathways are supported by well-conducted epidemiological studies in multiple locales, providing quantitative exposure–response data that can be used as inputs to health impact assessments (HIAs). However, most epidemiologic evidence derives from studies in high-income countries. It is unclear to what extent such evidence is directly transferable for policies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This gap calls for a future focus on building the evidence based in LMIC cities. Finally, the literature suggests that policies are likely to be most effective when they are developed by multidisciplinary teams that include policy makers, researchers, and representatives from affected communities.