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Decision support tools for health, environmental change and adaptive capacity

Decision support tools for health, environmental change and adaptive capacity
Multiple Authors
Nguyen Vinh Quang

This article was originally written for the HEALTHY FUTURES Newsletter no.4 (Summer 2013) and has been adapted for this website article.

A major outcome of the HEALTHY FUTURES project will be the introduction of decision support tools (DSTs) designed to be useful in health planners’ formulation, assessment and comparison of strategies for managing human responses to disease risks. This work will build on the past 2 ½ years of work undertaken by SEI in the project, which has included: identifying and engaging relevant stakeholders in the East African Community countries; creating strategic networks maps showing the inter-linkages and information flows between stakeholders; and inventorying relevant strategic plans, including those for health, environmental management, water supply and sanitation, climate change and other related documents. DSTs will also be based on criteria developed in the report, “5.3: Inventory of use of current tools by key stakeholders in their decision processes”, prepared by consortium partner PLUS with input from SEI. The criteria were: (i) fit for purpose; (ii) user friendly; (iii) participatory and equity focused; (iv) wide ranging; and (v) providing co-benefits. The report found that few tools were currently used in the East African Community to assess the impacts of environmental change on health (the full report is available here:

DSTs, in the context of climate change related challenges, are “documents, computer programs and websites that help people undertake all or some part of a climate risk screening and/or assessment process” (Hammill and Tanner 2011:16) that can be applied at one or more stages of the adaptation planning cycle/decision-analysis process. One computer-based tool proposed in the project description is the ‘ADX’ DST.

Adaptation Options Explorer (ADX) development

In its present form, ADX focuses on integration of climate information with other priorities in adaptation decision-making, for example see Figure 1. In May SEI renamed the tool to better explain how it can help decision-making. This was done in consultation with the HF project partners. The ‘Climate Adaptation options explorer ADX’ , which is the new name for the ADX tool, will be one of the tools of WP5 that we will be providing in the coming months.

The ADX is offered through the weADAPT climate adaptation platform and was developed through the support of a number of earlier projects. For more information about ADX see the factsheet (available at:

Applying ADX in health contexts will be challenging. In the most ambitious scenario, the main goal of this work will be the development of DSTs that integrate outputs from other project work packages and meet all of the above criteria, and that can be implemented in the study area to assist decision makers in eastern Africa. A more modest outcome would be partial achievement of these goals, with progress towards effective communication about DST requirements between decision makers and health researchers. This should lay the groundwork for stakeholder take-up and ownership of tools, their dissemination and use beyond HEALTHY FUTURES’ end.

It is worth stressing that the aim is not to advocate one particular tool, method or approach. For this reason ADX has an open architecture; its key feature is the ability to select and compare different methods applied to the same adaptation situation. Decision support should incorporate the results from research into tools that will be useful to stakeholders working in various contexts, and this means that a number of different methods need to be available for consideration. Figure 1 below shows one example application, using a multiple criteria approach to address the problem of malaria burden and using data informed from HEALTHY FUTURES research.

Figure 1: DSTs provide a structured approach to decision-making using for example multiple criteria methods

Elicitation of stakeholder needs

The above is an example of different types of decision analyses SEI will be supporting.

In Jan 2014 we undertook a survey of needs of stakeholders and the potential utility of DSTs as well as in October 2013 a set of interviews. Respondents suggested what DST features they would like to see and to what contexts they would envision applying them in their own work. The results of the study are now available on the page linked below:

Related resources on health and climate change

Related resources

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