North Carolina Climate and Health Adaptation Plan
In 2012, the North Carolina Climate and Health Adaptation Plan was developed. Since then, additional climate and health work has led the North Carolina Division of Public Health’s Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch to update the 2012 Adaptation Plan with current priorities. These priorities were developed using vulnerability assessments, disease burden projections, and intervention assessments.
Fine particulate matter from wildfires is an existing threat to North Carolinians’ health, and the combination of ecological changes, increases in heat exposures, and more precipitation variability will contribute to future climate and health impacts from wildfire smoke. Therefore, in the top priority area of air quality and respiratory disease, staff will focus on wildfire smoke health impacts. Wildfire smoke results from a variety of climate factors, including extensive heat and drought. Wildfires may cause major health concerns directly to those in surrounding areas, but also many who are quite a distance from the site of the fire. The 2008 and 2011 Eastern North Carolina wildfires resulted in downwind increases in respiratory and cardiovascular emergency department visits.
Heat-related illnesses and deaths are directly related to climatic patterns, and heat-related illnesses and deaths are a serious environmental health concern in North Carolina. The vulnerable population for heat-related illnesses is males 25-64 years of age living in rural areas, potentially as a result of occupational exposures. Disease burden projections for heat-related illnesses and deaths in North Carolina indicate that health impacts from heat will increase by 20255. The most sensitive measure of heat-related illness available in North Carolina is heat-related illness emergency department visits. Therefore, the secondary priority area for health adaptation will be heat-related illness emergency department visits.