The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Climate Change and Human Health Working Group recently sought stakeholder input on approaches and priorities that NIH should consider adopting to enhance research on the health implications of climate change. FABBS responded on behalf of our community, with a focus on how the behavioral sciences can be leveraged across NIH to maximize the health benefits of federal investments in climate research. Read FABBS’ full comments.
We encouraged NIH to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations from the initiation of proposals, bringing insights from the behavioral sciences to inform and improve adaptation and mitigation strategies. We also suggested that the agency increase its support for research on the mental health effects of climate change, including climate distress that can freeze or prevent climate mitigation actions, the impact of climate disasters on mental health, leading to acute and posttraumatic stress disorders.
The comments made clear that current funding paradigms are inadequate for data collection. NIH should consider more flexible funding mechanisms to collect baseline physical and mental health data in communities at risk for climate events. These data are essential to support resilience and identify opportunities for prevention. Additionally, we suggested that NIH consider funding instruments to better support research in the immediate aftermath of climate change induced events, using the NSF RAPID program as an example of how such an approach could be effective.
Finally, the comments emphasized the importance of investments in translation and communication to ensure that the insights gained from research are actionable for individuals and policymakers. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), at the National Academies, has provided a useful example of how to distill research findings with a specific eye toward implementation. Moreover, the Regional Education Laboratory program at the Institution of Education Sciences provides a model for a national network of regional research and translation centers to facilitate localized findings and a clear path from research to policy and practice.
FABBS will continue to advocate for the value of research on mental health effects and behavioral components of climate change. Greater attention to these areas is needed, as are new approaches to maximize the benefit of that research and create more direct lines from high quality research to effective public policy.