Climate change is a major challenge facing public health. National governments play a key role in public health adaptation to climate change, but there are competing views on what responsibilities and obligations this will—or should—include in different nations. This study aims to: (1) examine how national-level public health adaptation is occurring in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries; (2) examine the roles national governments are taking in public health adaptation; and (3) critically appraise three key governance dimensions of national-level health adaptation—cross-sectoral collaboration, vertical coordination and national health adaptation planning—and identify practical examples suited to different contexts. We systematically reviewed publicly available public health adaptation to climate change documents and webpages by national governments in ten OECD countries using systematic web searches, assessment of self-reporting, and content analysis. Our findings suggest national governments are primarily addressing infectious disease and heat-related risks posed by climate change, typically emphasizing capacity building or information-based groundwork initiatives. We find national governments are taking a variety of approaches to public health adaptation to climate change that do not follow expected convergence and divergence by governance structure. We discuss practical options for incorporating cross-sectoral collaboration, vertical coordination and national health adaptation planning into a variety of contexts and identify leaders national governments can look to to inform their public health adaptation planning. Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement and subsequent increased momentum for adaptation, research tracking adaptation is needed to define what health adaptation looks like in practice, reveal insights that can be taken up across states and sectors, and ensure policy orientated learning.
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