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Systematic mapping of global research on climate and health: a machine learning review

Abstract
Background
The global literature on the links between climate change and human health is large, increasing exponentially, and it is no longer feasible to collate and synthesise using traditional systematic evidence mapping approaches. We aimed to use machine learning methods to systematically synthesise an evidence base on climate change and human health.

Methods
We used supervised machine learning and other natural language processing methods (topic modelling and geoparsing) to systematically identify and map the scientific literature on climate change and health published between Jan 1, 2013, and April 9, 2020. Only literature indexed in English were included. We searched Web of Science Core Collection, Scopus, and PubMed using title, abstract, and keywords only. We searched for papers including both a health component and an explicit mention of either climate change, climate variability, or climate change-relevant weather phenomena. We classified relevant publications according to the fields of climate research, climate drivers, health impact, date, and geography. We used supervised and unsupervised machine learning to identify and classify relevant articles in the field of climate and health, with outputs including evidence heat maps, geographical maps, and narrative synthesis of trends in climate health-related publications. We included empirical literature of any study design that reported on health pathways associated with climate impacts, mitigation, or adaptation.

Findings
We predict that there are 15 963 studies in the field of climate and health published between 2013 and 2019. Climate health literature is dominated by impact studies, with mitigation and adaptation responses and their co-benefits and co-risks remaining niche topics. Air quality and heat stress are the most frequently studied exposures, with all-cause mortality and infectious disease incidence being the most frequently studied health outcomes. Seasonality, extreme weather events, heat, and weather variability are the most frequently studied climate-related hazards. We found major gaps in evidence on climate health research for mental health, undernutrition, and maternal and child health. Geographically, the evidence base is dominated by studies from high-income countries and China, with scant evidence from low-income counties, which often suffer most from the health consequences of climate change.

Interpretation
Our findings show the importance and feasibility of using automated machine learning to comprehensively map the science on climate change and human health in the age of big literature. These can provide key inputs into global climate and health assessments. The scant evidence on climate change response options is concerning and could significantly hamper the design of evidence-based pathways to reduce the effects on health of climate change. In the post-2015 Paris Agreement era of climate solutions, we believe much more attention should be given to climate adaptation and mitigation options and their effects on human health.

More information

Type
Journal Article
Author
Berrang-Ford L
Sietsma AJ
Callaghan M
Minx JC
Scheelbeek PFD
Haddaway NR
Haines A
Dangour AD
Year of Publication
2021
Journal
The Lancet Planetary Health
Language
eng
ISSN Number
2542-5196
DOI
10.1016/s2542-5196(21)00179-0
Publication Language
eng