The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has awarded two demonstration grants for climate and health projects. Clackamas County, Oregon and the Minnesota Department of Health have been funded to develop tools and increase capacity to increase health considerations in climate change adaptation.
Climate change is already affecting health, from the air we breathe to the water we drink. Solutions to a variety of challenges can be addressed at the local level. Both the Minnesota and Oregon teams will develop tools and strategies for analyzing and communicating the effects of a changing climate on residents’ health. “The health of our families are effectively promoted and protected by investments, policies and decisions made at the local level” said NEHA Executive Director Dr. David Dyjack. “We are pleased to collaborate with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to provide local environmental health practitioners tools and resources aimed at reducing the health risks associated with climate change, in the spirit of ensuring every community member reaches their full human potential.”
The Oregon project team, which includes members from each local public health authority in the Portland metropolitan region including Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties, have a standing collaboration to address climate and health issues. They will enhance their existing partnership by completing a regional climate and health impact assessment report, which focuses on observed health outcomes related to climate change, and develop an accompanying data visualization tool. The key aims of the project are to educate residents and other stakeholders about climate-related morbidity and mortality and highlight how social determinants are the primary drivers of climate vulnerability. The project will improve regional processes related to cross-jurisdictional sharing, mass communication, planning, and assessment. NEHA’s technical assistance can include guidance for the health impact assessment report and identification of materials for the visualization tool.
The Minnesota team, consisting of the Minnesota Department of Health and U-Spatial at the University of Minnesota, are developing a user-friendly, open-access online geographic information system (GIS) tool that maps exposures and sensitivities to climate change, called the Minnesota Climate & Health Vulnerability Assessment Tool. U-Spatial will enhance the tool by adding additional data, such as, exposure and sensitivity layers, to develop an extreme heat vulnerability index. MDH will work with one community to develop and share a model report for heat vulnerability using the tool’s enhancements. NEHA’s technical assistance could include helping to define layers for the Tool and ways of presenting the vulnerability information for adaptation planning.
Both projects are set to be completed by the end of July, 2019. By measuring correlation between a changing climate and health effects, NEHA, Clackamas County, and the Minnesota Department of Health can begin addressing the locality of these issues, and their impacts on their communities.