Next steps for silo busting in climate change and health

UCL Public Policy
5 min readNov 15, 2023


‘Climate change and health’ is an inherently transdisciplinary research and policy area, and it is rife with silos. These siloes are a key challenge for effective action and addressing them could support delivery of substantial benefits for both health and the environment.

Breaking silos is never easy, but following a series of workshops bringing together participants from across research and policy making, we’ve identified the following insights and opportunities everyone can employ to begin to build collaboration.

Come together around evidence

Due to its centrality to both research and policy, evidence can serve as an important bridge between siloed stakeholders in climate change and health. Coming together around evidence means using evidence as a tool for collaboration, communication, and effective working across siloes. For example, this can include collaborating with stakeholders to identify evidence needs or employing different forms of evidence according to the stakeholders you’re communicating with.

When using evidence as a tool to break down silos, it is essential to consider evidence gaps and challenge areas. Often, cost-effectiveness can overshadow wider evidence needs, limiting the scope of evidence creation to what is possible and easily achievable. This promotes business-as-usual working that is siloed between disciplines. However, the questions that still need to be addressed in climate change and health are huge, and taking a broad lens that is not restricted by cost-effectiveness is essential to understanding the breadth of evidence needs. As such, funders also play a central role bridging silos through evidence; researchers, policy makers, and funders must come together as equal partners to identify evidence needs and drive climate change and health action forward through research and evidence creation.

Develop shared language and objectives

Working together across silos is hard, and it’s even harder when you’re not working towards the same goal or don’t understand each other’s exclusionary jargon. That’s why developing shared language and objectives is essential to breaking down siloes in climate change and health. Identifying cross-cutting themes and synthesising evidence on key aims are both important steps in this direction. With shared objectives, work in climate change and health can become more effective as a more targeted approach is possible.

Value different strengths, approaches, and levers

Sharing objectives doesn’t mean that all climate change and health stakeholders have to agree on everything. In fact, the diversity of approaches, expertise, and levers for action bring strength to this research and policy area and should be valued by research, policy, and funding institutions. Individuals also play a role in this; we must all loosen our grip on the dogmas of our disciplines to be open to other approaches and ideas. By valuing the approaches and strengths of others we can begin to break down siloes between ourselves.

The scope and diversity of action needed in the realm of climate change and health necessitates a variety of levers for action. Fortunately, the diversity of stakeholders in this space will all have different professional, personal, and political capital to encourage action. Once shared objectives are established, a flexible and targeted approach becomes possible, enabling people to use the different levers and expertise that they have in this space.

Use creativity to build bridges

Moving beyond business-as-usual approaches to engagement and collaboration can be pivotal for stimulating new thinking and connections to break down barriers in climate change and health. Embracing novel and creative ways of working can be a useful tool to express and experience new ideas and ways of working.

Working through creative techniques, such as mosaic making, performance art or creating graphic novels, lower people’s inhibitions and changes the rules dictating their thinking. Through creative approaches, people working in disciplinary and professional silos are forced to think in new ways about old problems. Further, by moving outside of professional comfort zones, different stakeholders can be brought to the table as equals.

Show up, as a person as well as a professional

When we talk about siloes in climate change and health, we talk about people in their professional roles: policy makers, researchers, funders. But all these people are just that; people. Showing up as a person rather than just a professional at work on climate change and health is important because it can be an emotionally challenging area to work in and sharing the emotional toll supports resilience. Empathy and sensitivity can also build bridges across professional divides and encourage the development of relationships between people working in this space, thus breaking down silos.

Call to action:

The steps above aren’t the only ways to break down silos in climate change and health research and policy. There are small, tangible actions anyone working in this space can take to bust silos for action on climate change and health:

  • Talk to your colleagues working in different areas! Understand their key concerns, their evidence needs and priorities, and how they feel about progress on climate change and health.
  • Make climate change and health a regular agenda item in your organisation. Consistently challenge yourself and your organisation on what is being done to take action in this area.
  • We all have different levers for action: identify and use yours.
  • Action on climate change and health also needs to engage with groups beyond research, policy, and funding. Reach out to engage diverse stakeholders with your work, including with creative approaches like mosaic making!

Written by Sonora English, Research Assistant at Race & Health, Institute for Global Health

From May-November 2023 Sonora has led a series of collaboration workshops on climate and health policy for UCL Public Policy. This has included in participating in a Wellcome Policy Lab funded project, Mosaics for Policy, trialling a novel mosaic-based method for inclusive policy making discussions. The outcomes from the Mosaics for Policy project will be published by Wellcome Policy Lab in early 2024. You can find out more about UCL PP’s work on climate and health here.



UCL Public Policy

Supporting engagement and collaboration between UCL researchers and policy professionals