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The State of Climate Adaptation in Public Health: An Assessment of 16 U.S. States

Created: 6/27/2019 - Updated: 6/28/2019

Abstract

Climate change poses significant threats to the health of individuals and communities, as well as the delivery of healthcare services. Human morbidity and mortality rates are rising due to extreme heat events and changing patterns of water-borne and vector-borne diseases, and healthcare infrastructure is at risk from extreme events. Climate adaptation actions are taken to either avoid or take advantage of climate change impacts either by decreasing vulnerability or increasing resilience.

EcoAdapt was funded by the Natural Resources Defense Council to assess the state of climate adaptation planning and implementation for climate-related threats to public health in 16 U.S. states – Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. These states include a cross-section of areas in which the Natural Resources Defense Council is engaged in climate and clean energy advocacy work, states included in the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge program, and a subset of those in which the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects framework is being operationalized.

The project objectives were to:

  1. assess understanding among public health officials of climate change impacts;
  2. document activities – planned and underway – to prepare for and respond to climate-related challenges;
  3. synthesize findings in case studies to inform adaptation planning in other states; and
  4. create a public health topic page on the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) to share relevant resources, tools, and case studies.

EcoAdapt scientists examined if and how climate change is being integrated into activities at state public health departments and other agencies and organizations. The majority of initiatives at the state health departments surveyed are focused on capacity building, primarily environmental health monitoring; vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning efforts; public awareness outreach and communication campaigns related to climate change; and collaborating with local health departments, tribal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. Eighteen full-length case studies are presented on how various practitioners are integrating climate change into public health.

Published On

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Keywords

Scale: 
Community / Local
State / Provincial
Tribal / First Nation
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Air temperature
Diseases or parasites
Fire
Flooding
Infrastructure damage
Invasive / non-native species, pests
Oxygen concentrations (hypoxia)
Precipitation
Public health risks
Public safety threats
Range shifts
Salinization / Saltwater intrusion
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water quality
Water supply
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Invest in / Enhance emergency services planning and training
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Monitor climate change impacts and adaptation efficacy
Create/enhance resources and tools
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Community Planning (developing climate-smart communities)
Develop disaster preparedness plans and policies
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Develop / implement adaptation plans

Related Resources

Addressing climate-related public health risks in Colorado

Photo attibuted to Debivort. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Adaptation Phase: 
Awareness
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

Colorado is implementing climate change adaptation and action initiatives across agencies and scales throughout the state. However, the integration of climate change into public health is limited and planning, implementation, and evaluation efforts are variable across state-, county-, and city-level endeavors.

Building resilience to climate change in Florida’s public health system

Photo attributed to Jim Dietrich aka EaglesFanInTampa. Incorporated here under the  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The Florida Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) Program is building awareness and capacity in county health departments to address climate-related health impacts.

Preparing for the public health impacts of climate change in Illinois

Photo attributed to Diego Delso. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

Climate change impacts, including increases in extreme events such as flooding, heat waves, and drought, have already affected Illinois and are projected to continue. These kinds of extreme events can lead to health problems such as heat-related illnesses, asthma, vector- and water-borne diseases, and mental health issues.

Addressing climate change and environmental health risks in Iowa

Photo attributed to Don Graham. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The state of Iowa does not have a formal state climate action plan, however there are efforts within the state to address the impacts of climate change on public health, the environment, and communities. These efforts primarily focus on identifying climate change impacts, acquiring data and monitoring changes, and public outreach and education.

Preparing for the public health impacts of climate change through the Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program

Photo attributed to Connor Coyne. This work has been released into the public domain. No endorsement implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

Projected climate impacts for Michigan, including extreme heat events, extreme precipitation events leading to flooding, and extreme weather events (e.g., freezing rain, heavy snow), pose a significant threat to public health.

Raising the profile of climate-related health risks in Missouri

Photo attributed to Bev Skyes. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. No endoresement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Disaster Risk Management
Public Health
Summary: 

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.

Statewide efforts to address climate-related health risks in Nevada

Photo attributed to Neaco. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.  

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Disaster Risk Management
Public Health
Summary: 

Efforts in Nevada to address climate-related public health risks include tracking of clinic and hospital visits, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and investment in renewable energy sources, and water conservation measures. In addition, Nevada joined the U.S. Climate Alliance in March 2019, committing to several climate adaptation and mitigation goals.

Assessing links between climate change and public health and safety in New Jersey

Photo attributed to Jawny80. This work has been released into the public domain. No endorsement implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

Efforts to address climate-related public health risks by the New Jersey Department of Health include environmental public health data monitoring, tracking of medical assets and extreme events, education and technical assistance, and targeted research to evaluate programmatic vulnerabilities.

Building capacity to reduce human health impacts of climate change in New York State

Photo attributed to William Warby. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

In New York State, the climate is becoming warmer, wetter, and more variable. Impacts such as heat waves, flooding, and extreme weather events (e.g., heavy rain or snow) are already affecting human health and well-being and are projected to continue.

Implementing interventions for heat-related illness and wildfire smoke exposure in North Carolina

Photo attributed to USWS Souteast Region. This work is in the public domain. No endorsement implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is utilizing the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework to address heat-related illness and wildfire smoke exposure in their most vulnerable counties.

Building awareness of climate-related health risks in Ohio

Photo attributed to Art Anderson. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The State of Ohio does not have a state climate adaptation plan or an official Department of Health climate action plan. However, there are efforts underway to address the public health impacts of climate change in some city and county plans as well as efforts across nongovernmental organizations in the region.

Mainstreaming climate change in public health policy and practice in Oregon

Photo attributed to Adam Jones, Ph.D. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The Oregon Health Authority’s Climate and Health Program is striving to integrate climate change into public health practice, systems, and policies to ensure that all Oregon residents have equitable access to clean air, clean water, and healthy food.

Addressing heat-related illness, wildfire smoke exposure, and environmental justice in Multnomah County, Oregon

Photo attributed to Steve Morgan. Incorporated here under the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The Climate and Health Program of Oregon’s Multnomah County Health Department aims to protect residents from illness and premature death associated with climate-related hazards. Building on their 2013 Climate Change and Public Health Preparation Plan, the health department is currently implementing several public health interventions to address extreme heat events and wildfire smoke exposure.

Efforts to address climate-related risks to public health and safety in Pennsylvania

Photo attributed to Micheal Fleischhacker. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

Pennsylvania does not have an official health department climate action plan. The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) recognizes that there are climate discussions taking place in Pennsylvania in a number of organizations. However, PADOH is not actively involved in these discussions.

Local efforts to address climate change and public health in Philadelphia

This photo is in the public domain. No endorsement implied.

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health (PDPH) is working to integrate climate change action into public health planning and outreach. While a formal climate and adaptation plan is still in progress, PDPH is actively working to engage the public on issues regarding climate-related risks to health and safety.

Incorporating climate change into state public health policy in Virginia

Photo attributed to Anderskev. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is in the beginning stages of incorporating climate change impacts into its public health programs through its newly established Climate Change Committee (C-3). Other Virginia agencies and organizations are also incorporating public health considerations into climate actions.

Addressing climate change impacts on public health in Washington State

Photo attributed to Daniel Schwen. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 Internationallicense. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

The Climate and Health Program of the Washington State Department of Health aims to reduce the negative effects of climate change on public health by working with local health departments, communities, and other state, tribal, and local agencies.

Building capacity for adaptation action through the Wisconsin Climate and Health Program

Photo attributed to Towpilot. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied. 

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Public Health
Summary: 

Projected climate impacts for Wisconsin, including increased flooding and precipitation, extreme temperatures (hot and cold), and drought, among others, can affect mental health and lead to increased disease and illness.

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