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HeMS Fowler-Davis: Mitigating climate related health risks to enable ‘place-based’ wellbeing for ageing populations

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care

Supervisors: Dr Sally Fowler Davis; Dr Antonio Blanco-Montero; Dr Zareen Bharucha 

Location: Chelmsford

The interview for this project is expected to take place on Friday 26 April.

Apply online by 3 March 2024

Climate change is the most important challenge of our times, with the potential to aggravate and cause serious health problems and population level changes in the wellbeing of whole communities.

A recent UN report highlighted the urgent need for practical approaches to mitigate the impact of climate change amongst vulnerable people and communities.

As the impacts of climate change become more severe, the UK has begun to recognise that those who are older, vulnerable, and have multiple needs are at the eye of the storm in relation to climate risks and shock events.

This project will investigate the health risks related to climate change at a local level, based on population health data and perceptions of older people to identify health and wellbeing strategies to enable ‘place-based’ mitigation.

This project will target two areas in the East of England (EofE) - Peterborough and Colchester - which share a profile that is consistent in terms of the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), demonstrating a need to increase resilience at community level.

We will draw on co-production methods with older people to develop a shared vision for health improvement that is locality-based and establishes a conceptual ‘sense of place’ with older adult participants.

Research objectives

  1. To scope the literature relating to climate risk for older communities, acknowledging and including diverse groups and the rural context.
  2. Undertake a participatory process to identify key stakeholders and to prioritise the outcomes for the research.
  3. Design a comparative place-based investigation using the Age-friendly Cities and Communities Framework.
  4. Select ethnographic approaches to understand the climate risk and potential resilience measures for older adults in the context of their health and wellbeing experience.
  5. Report on and plan dissemination of recommendations for healthcare improvement in relation to healthcare utilisation.

Climate change is a complex topic necessitating a transdisciplinary dialogue on public and private spaces, urban design and environmental social science.

The PhD candidate will focus on the health impacts identified by two participating groups of older adults and their perception of how climate is affecting their health, wellbeing, and utilisation of services and within urban communities.

The goal is to identify ‘at-place’ strategies for sustaining health and wellbeing locally, regionally and nationally using Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Indices of Multiple Deprivation Data (IMD).

Based on discussion with the candidate and the supervisory team, we envisage a mixed-methods, two-site study that is based on participatory co-production.

A range of approaches will be considered whereby around 15 older adults within a 70-80 indicative age group will meet and work towards a shared understanding of climate challenges in their communities and improving the resilience of the climate and community elders.

The study will be structured around the objectives, with the student supervised with literature-based, population health data access and participatory methods.

An initial focus will be on establishing the requisite governance within the University to a) engage participants and stakeholders and b) ensure the appropriate support for the student as a researcher in the community.

Open dialogue with academic and operational partners will be supported by the supervisory team and will ensure that careful attention is paid to respectfully listening to and continuously engaging with the communities’ representatives as participants.

The project is supported by Health Innovation East, and match funding is expected to support transport costs and engagement activity. The local authority leads are also available to ensure that the team are networked with the areas of concern and have strategic links with the cities in focus.

Methods will include interviews and focus groups, with qualitative framework analysis and synthesis of findings to enable rich descriptions of causes and consequences of environmental risk at the local level.

Data synthesis will be analysed and compared with the Age Friendly Communities and Cities Framework. These are based on age-friendly interventions' need to attend to the changing physical, social and cultural dimensions of aging and place.

Dissemination workshops and engagement events will be included with the opportunity to engage the student as they write up and then present their findings in keeping with the capability and capacity of the participatory groups, but peer review publications will enable recommendations to regional and strategic groups.

If you would like to discuss this research project please contact Sally Fowler-Davis: [email protected]

Apply online by 3 March 2024

Funding notes

The successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers the tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2023/4 this was £18,622 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.