Climate change, human health, and biomedical research: analysis of the National Institutes of Health research portfolio.


According to a wide variety of analyses and projections, the potential effects of global climate change on human health are large and diverse. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), through its basic, clinical, and population research portfolio of grants, has been increasing efforts to understand how the complex interrelationships among humans, ecosystems, climate, climate variability, and climate change affect domestic and global health.

A list of candidate climate and health projects funded from FY 2008 budget appropriations were identified and characterized based on their relevance to climate change and health and based on climate pathway, health impact, study type, and objective.

This analysis identified seven FY 2008 projects focused on climate change, 85 climate-related projects, and 706 projects that focused on disease areas associated with climate change but did not study those associations. Of the nearly 53,000 awards that NIH made in 2008, approximately 0.17% focused on or were related to climate.

In this commentary we present a systematic review and categorization of the fiscal year (FY) 2008 NIH climate and health research portfolio.

Given the nature and scale of the potential effects of climate change on human health and the degree of uncertainty that we have about these effects, we think that it is helpful for the NIH to engage in open discussions with science and policy communities about government-wide needs and opportunities in climate and health, and about how NIH's strengths in human health research can contribute to understanding the health implications of global climate change. This internal review has been used to inform more recent initiatives by the NIH in climate and health.

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