Climate Change and Health: Local Government Capacity for Health Protection in Australia

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Climate change is the greatest global health threat of the 21st century, with numerous direct and indirect human health consequences. Local governments play a critical role in communities’ response to climate change, both through strategies to reduce emissions and adaption plans to respond to changing climate and extreme weather events. Australian local government environmental health officers (EHOs) have the relevant skills and expertise to inform and develop adaptation plans for health protection in the context of climate change. This study used an online survey followed by phone interviews of local government management to determine the extent to which EHOs are involved in adaptation planning in health protection climate change plans. Questions were also asked to determine whether local councils are aware of EHOs’ capability to contribute and to gauge the willingness of management to provide EHOs with the workload capacity to do so. The findings demonstrated that although climate adaptation and mitigation planning is occurring in local government, it is not including or considering the public health impacts on the community. Primarily, it was found that this oversight was due to a lack of awareness of the health impacts of climate change outside of a disaster or emergency scenario. Currently, EHOs are an untapped source of knowledge and skills that can contribute to climate change adaption planning. To support this, a framework of local environmental health practice was developed to assist the reconceptualization of the scope of practice required for the planning and response to climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1750
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • climate change
  • EHOs
  • environmental health
  • environmental health officers
  • local government


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