SKLK14001U Climate Change and Human Health

Volume 2015/2016

MSc Programme in Climate Change


The course on “Climate Change and Human Health” takes the point of departure in the strong, scientific consensus that climate change endangers human health in various ways and is likely to delay the progress towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 in some regions. The Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission in 2009 stated that "Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century". Climate change and variability play significant roles in the geo-spatial and temporal distribution of a number of vector-borne diseases, water-related diseases and affect the seasonal distribution and concentrations of some aero-allergens and may lead to increased heat-related mortality. Health impacts whether negative or positive are unevenly distributed, and are particularly severe in regions and countries with already high burdens of disease, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) succeeding the MDGs will maintain a strong focus og climate change and health.

The course will start out describing the earth systems and human systems linkages and the relationship between climate factors such as temperature, precipitation, sea level rise and extreme weather events and their respective impacts on human health in vulnerable groups of the society.

There are different ways to classify the health impacts of climate change According to the World Health Organization three types of health impacts may be described and these will be discussed in the module: "1) Those that are relatively direct, usually caused by weather extremes; 2) The more indirect health consequences of the various processes of climate factor induced environmental change and ecological disruption and 3) the diverse health impacts (e.g. traumatic, infectious, nutritional, mental) that occur in demoralized and displaced populations in the wake of climate induced environmental degradation and conflict".

For the mentioned types of health impacts the course will provide opportunities for thorough descriptions and discussions of environmental, social and institutional determinants of health that are sensitive to climate change and it will focus on related population dynamics and vulnerability. Resilience and coping mechanisms will be discussed at the individual, community and system levels.

Finally the course will discuss how national health systems may contribute to adaptation and mitigation activities for safeguarding health of present and future generations. The role of international organizations and lending institutions (development banks) and bilateral donors may furthermore be included.


Learning Outcome

The overall aim of the course is – in a participatory learning environment - to provide up-to-date knowledge on the effects of climate change on human health and to present information and experiences from real life situations as they relate to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The learning objectives of the course are the following:

Upon successful completion of the module the participant will be able to:


-       Define “health” and subsets of health including “environmental health”

-       Describe the complex interrelationship between earth systems and human systems with a focus on climate factors and their importance as determinants of health;

-       Describe different types of health impacts of climate change including direct and indirect impacts as well as the importance of environmental, social, biological and institutional risk factors (determinants) and health opportunities.

-       Reflect on the significance of climate change for population dynamics and specific vulnerable community groups and regions including their resilience and coping mechanisms;

-       Describe the direction and magnitude of health impacts of climate change;

-       Describe the health system responses and preparedness to climate change related health concerns – including disaster preparedness;

-       Describe adaptation and resilience in a public health context;

-       Define the role and importance of an intersectoral approach to climate change and health interventions; 

-       Describe the use of forecasting and impact assessment tools (EIA, HIA, SEA, GIS) in a climate change adaptation context.

Skills and competences

-       Identify and analyse climate sensitive determinants of health – as basis for proposing appropriate interventions;

-       Identify specific vulnerable community groups to climate change;

-       Identify potential vulnerable regions to climate change; 

-       Use health impact assessment (HIA) as a tool for assessing climate change adaptation strategies and plans.

Learning resources include video material, scientific papers, reviews, reports, internet based data

The course will utilize a range of didactic tools and learning approaches including lectures, colloquia, discussions, WIKIs and problem-based assignment related to selected national and international case studies.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 26
  • Lectures
  • 8
  • Preparation
  • 116
  • Project work
  • 56
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
A project assignment of max 15 pages developed during the course.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assesment

Fulfilment of intended learning outcomes