Climate Change

Climate change affects public health at many levels, and local health departments play a vital role in helping communities prepare for and address the health effects of climate change. As the climate continues to change communities will be susceptible to a number of health threats, including increased exposure to vector-borne and infectious diseases, worsening air quality and pollution levels, food shortages, and lack of access to safe drinking water. NACCHO believes, with the necessary resources, local health departments are uniquely positioned to respond to these health impacts and protect the public's health.

NACCHO and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change studied climate change preparedness at the local and published their findings in Are We Ready? Report 2: Preparing for the Public Health Challenges of Climate Change. Key highlights include:

  • Nearly 8 out of 10 local health department directors believed climate change was already occurring, and more than half thought climate change was already harming the public, or would begin to do so in the next decade; 
  • Nearly 8 out of 10 local health department directors believed their local health department lacked the expertise to assess the potential impacts of climate change and effectively create plans to respond to climate change adaptation plans; and 
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 local health department directors felt their health department lacked sufficient resources to effectively protect the local population from the impacts of climate change

12 Steps to Operationalize Climate Change in a Local Health Department is a fact sheet that helps local health departments address climate change and initiate programs to help mitigate the public health impacts associated with it. The fact sheet identifies 12 important steps that local health departments should follow when initiating climate change work, and functions as a checklist to ensure all stages are successfully completed. It covers climate change education for health department staff, availability of staff and resources to address the issues, identification of existing effects in the community, and development and implementation of a climate change adaptation plan.

The NACCHO Climate Change Toolkit helps local health departments to develop strategic action plans, conduct vulnerability assessments, communicate about climate change, adapt to the effects of climate change, and more. Have a resource you’d like to share? NACCHO is always seeking toolkit additions that address public health issues particular to extreme temperature incidents. Send your strategies, protocols, case examples, reports, training materials, messaging materials, presentations, fact sheets, drills, etc. directly to the Climate Change Toolkit or to Chelsea Gridley-Smith.

The NACCHO Global Climate Change Workgroup is committed to providing leadership and resources to support local health department climate change efforts. The workgroup is comprised of local health officials, environmental health professionals, environmental health directors, and subject matter experts who are interested in enhancing climate change adaptation and mitigation policies and practices.

The workgroup holds at least one in-person meeting (pending funding), monthly conference calls, and work in between meetings. In addition, the workgroup reviews documents and participates in judging model practice applications throughout the year. Appointment to the workgroup is for a two-year term with an option for reappointment to a second two-year term. Message Chelsea Gridley-Smith for more information.

NACCHO invites local health departments to submit stories that highlight and showcase local climate change work. The Climate Change Story Series is used to advocate for local health departments, share information with federal partners and other local health departments, and raise awareness of the important work of public health professionals.

NACCHO University, NACCHO’s new online learning platform, provides courses to help local health department staff develop their public health knowledge and competencies. The Climate Change and Public Health course explores the relationship between climate change and public health.  Students will be able to do the following upon completion of the course:

  1. Define climate change; 
  2. Describe the ways that climate change impacts public health; and 
  3. Describe climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the local health department roles in each

Click below to access NACCHO's policy statements regarding climate change and other public health issues.

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