3. Adaptation Barriers & Opportunities

About 85% of interviewees and survey respondents report adjusting their health-related activities in some way to address climate change. Participants were asked to identify specific barriers and opportunities (e.g., strategies or actions) with respect to managing public health in a changing climate. The top two barriers to climate-informed public health efforts noted by respondents who are both engaged in climate adaptation and those who are not include lack of funding and insufficient staff resources and capacity (Figure 9). Other more pressing issues such as general economic prosperity and a lack of options for effective management of climate-related health impacts are shared perceived barriers for both sets of respondents.

Figure 9.

Additional challenges noted by state public health officials engaged in adaptation include communicating the connections between current extreme events (e.g., floods, fires, hurricanes) and climate change; finding simple, straightforward ways to communicate the health effects of climate change to the general public; and a lack of evidence-supported interventions that can be easily applied by health officials. Factors that have facilitated the integration of climate change into public health efforts include leadership support within health departments; recent extreme events that have brought attention to the need for preparedness and response measures; and emerging funding opportunities (e.g., Kresge Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). For example, the Kresge Foundation funded the 2016-2017 Climate Change and Health Learning Collaborative to facilitate peerto-peer networking and learning between urban local health departments, including King County (WA), Multnomah County (OR), Los Angeles County (CA), Maricopa (AZ), Pima (AZ), Denver (CO), Tulsa (OK), Minneapolis (MN), Macomb County (MI), Columbus (OH), Philadelphia (PA), and New Orleans (LA).

Of the more general strategies associated with climate adaptation (Figure 10), respondents who are currently engaged in adaptation efforts are prioritizing capacity building activities such as enhancing coordination and collaboration between individuals, communities, departments, and service providers (78%), increasing and improving public awareness and outreach efforts related to climate impacts (77%), and monitoring environmental and climatic conditions and impacts (73%).

Figure 10.