Raising the profile of climate-related health risks in Missouri
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Posted byRachel Gregg
Neither the State of Missouri nor the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services has a climate action or adaptation plan. Activities underway at the health department are focused primarily on monitoring, surveillance, and public outreach. In addition, the State Emergency Management Agency, City of St. Louis, and Jackson County have taken steps to address climate change impacts on public health and safety. The Missouri State Medical Association also recently passed a resolution to support and actively lobby the State Legislature for a comprehensive climate change policy.
Missouri’s temperatures have warmed by 0.5-2˚F over the last century. Projected climate change impacts include heavy precipitation events, more frequent flooding, increased extreme heat events, increased ground-level ozone smog, increased length and severity of the pollen season, and higher risk of vector-borne illnesses such as the West Nile virus and Lyme disease.
The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services (DHHS) has not engaged in climate adaptation planning. However, the department does provide tracking and educational resources that may support action on climate change. In addition, the State Emergency Management Agency, City of St. Louis, and Jackson County have taken steps to address climate change impacts on public health and safety. The City of St. Louis and Jackson County are ranked as having high and moderate-high vulnerability respectively on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index.
Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services
DHHS established the Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (EPHT) in 2002 as part of the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The department hosts the EPHT Data Portal, which collects and provides data to support decision-making to improve prevention and response measures. The site is used to analyze trends over time through hazard and disease surveillance, identify effective interventions, and to support public health research. EPHT operates in collaboration with the Missouri Public Health Information Management System (MOPHIMS) to support community health assessments of factors such as hospital and emergency room visits, injuries, and fatalities. EPHT provides historical weather and climate data (1990-2015) on factors such as temperatures, winds, and humidity. The department also provides links to resources on extreme heat and cold events, heavy precipitation and flooding, vector-borne diseases, and harmful algal blooms.
DHHS’s Disaster and Emergency Planning program created the online Ready in 3 toolkit to help residents prepare by (1) creating a plan for different situations (e.g., evacuation vs. staying home), (2) preparing an emergency kit, and (3) listening for information from city, county, and state officials. Other resources included in the toolkit are guidelines for schools, adult care facilities, healthcare facilities, and emotional preparedness.
Missouri State Emergency Management Agency
The State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) released the Missouri State Hazard Mitigation Plan in 2018, which includes climate change considerations as they may exacerbate future hazard events, such as intense storms and precipitation, heat waves, drought, and flooding. The plan links climate change with human health impacts such as decreased air quality, reduced water availability, increased respiratory illnesses, elevated emotional stress levels, and food-, and vector- and water-borne diseases.
City of St. Louis
In 2017, the City of St. Louis released a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan to improve human health and well-being, protect built and natural assets, and advance equity. The plan includes several mitigation and adaptation goals related to human health, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of 2005 levels by 2050. Other strategies include investing in walkable neighborhoods, creating and maintaining green spaces, reducing risks associated with temperature extremes (e.g., increase presence of and mobility to cooling and heating centers, education of vulnerable populations), and reducing flood impacts and health-associated risks (e.g., protect vulnerable water treatment facilities, promote green infrastructure).
In July 2018, the Jackson County Health Department released Climate Change in Jackson County: An Examination of the Health Impacts of Climate Change, which identifies key climate-related risks and essential responses to protect public health and safety. Recommended strategies include increased public education and outreach, improving operational emergency response capacity, maintaining surveillance of conditions and public health data, and improving healthcare infrastructure.
Outcomes and Conclusions
There is limited overall action on climate change in Missouri. However, some entities are taking initial steps to raise the profile of climate-related health risks. In addition, the Missouri State Medical Association recently passed a resolution to support and actively lobby the State Legislature for a comprehensive climate change policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution and improve the public health of all state residents.
Gregg RM. 2019. Raising the profile of climate-related health risks in Missouri [Case study on a project of the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/raising-profile-climate-related-health-risks-missouri (Last updated June 2019)