Sarah Harrison

Project Title: Climate change adaptation for health and wellbeing: A participatory modelling approach

Project Abstract: 

Anthropogenic climate change is increasing the risk of flooding and sea-level rise in many parts of the world, with far-reaching implications for the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. The aim of this research was to develop a qualitative model of the complex dynamics between, health, wellbeing, flooding, and sea-level rise in a high-risk urban area, with an equity focus. Participants were guided through a participatory system dynamics modelling process in South Dunedin, Ōtepoti Dunedin.

The research involved thirty-two individual interviews and two group workshops with community stakeholders, local government staff, and scientific experts. Participants’ knowledge was triangulated with that of the existing literature to develop a set of six qualitative Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs). These CLDs capture the reinforcing and balancing feedback behaviour that influence health and wellbeing in the context of climate change adaptation in South Dunedin.

The CLD themes were: quality of housing, the housing market, economic effects, community-led development and participation in decision-making, the insurance market, and access issues. Together, these CLDs demonstrate how flooding and sea-level rise can exacerbate existing wellbeing issues such as poverty, poor quality housing, housing unaffordability, and underinvestment in the area.

Potential intervention points were identified that can be used to inform wellbeing-focussed adaptation planning and policy.


  • Harrison, S., Macmillan, A., Bond, S., Stephenson, J., 2022. Climate change adaptation decision-making for health and wellbeing in South Dunedin: Report on the use of causal mapping for stakeholders. University of Otago:
  • Harrison, S., Macmillan, A., Rudd, C., 2020. Framing climate change and health: New Zealand’s online news media. Health Promotion International, daz130:
  • Harrison, S., Baker, M., Benschop, J., Death, R., French, N., Harmsworth, G., Lake, R., Lamont, I., Priest, P., Ussher, J., Murdoch, D., 2020. ‘One Health Aotearoa: a transdisciplinary initiative to improve human, animal and environmental health in New Zealand’, One Health Outlook, vol 2 (4):
  • Harrison, S., Kivuti-Bitok, L., Macmillan, A., Priest, P., 2019. ‘EcoHealth and One Health: A theory-focused review in response to calls for convergence’, Environment International, vol 132: