Local agencies to use funding for air quality improvement, and flood and wildfire risk awareness
Washington, DC, April 05, 2022 —The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), with support from the Climate and Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has awarded the Calhoun County Health Department in Illinois, GreenRoots in Massachusetts, and Public Health—Seattle-King County in Washington with $25,000 each to supplement ongoing climate change and health adaptation initiatives at the local level.
The 2022 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations’ body for assessing the science related to climate change, noted that a rapidly warming planet presents both immediate and long-term challenges for human health. Rising temperatures will mean longer, hotter summers; larger, more intense wildfires; and increased rainfall and more frequent floods, among other risks. In addition to acute risks presented by extreme heat and fires, heat waves and wildfire smoke can exacerbate a range of chronic conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Meanwhile, flooding presents an urgent danger for people directly in the path of the floodwaters, and can also result in long-term damage to buildings, leading to problems such as mold growth and sewage leaks. These enormously disruptive events can also contribute to emotional distress when people’s homes, livelihoods, and sense of safety are damaged.
However, there are ample opportunities to adapt to, and mitigate, these risks. Local health departments have a vital role to play in this process. They can deliver education and outreach to residents, maintain health surveillance and monitoring systems, and implement necessary changes in response to the specific risks in their jurisdiction. An effective and well-functioning public health system means healthier and resilient communities, even in the face of unprecedented challenges. As the leading advocate for local public health, NACCHO is pleased to support the work of the following three local health departments through the climate and health grant awards.
Calhoun County Health Department in Illinois is using the grant to raise awareness around climate and health issues, particularly the effects of flooding. Located between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, Calhoun County is at risk for seasonal flooding, which can disrupt travel, farming, and other daily activities in the community. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of flooding across the Midwest and residents of places like Calhoun County have already experienced some of these effects. With this grant, the department plans to build a flood model to help community residents better understand the speed and scale with which floods can sweep through the local area. The health department also plans to host an Earth Day event in April to bring the community together and share educational materials about flooding. By raising awareness on the issue, the Calhoun County Health Department aims to give residents the knowledge they need to safely respond and adapt to their changing environment.
GreenRoots will work with the community in Chelsea, MA to support improved air quality and a “cool block” strategy. Chelsea is adjacent to Boston Logan International Airport. The jet fuel for the airport, as well as much of the gasoline for energy needs in the surrounding area travels up Chelsea Creek while tens of thousands of vehicles cross over Tobin Bridge into the city every day. Other critical industries also operate in and around Chelsea, including one of the largest produce distribution centers on the East Coast. These industrial operations generate noise, traffic, and pollution, placing a heavy environmental burden on the residents of Chelsea. To counter these effects, GreenRoots plans to collect data from existing outdoor air quality monitors maintained by the state and develop a plan to distribute 200 air purifiers. The organization will also use the grant funding to engage the local community in plans to paint white roofs, plant trees, and redesign an area along Mill Creek to create a new park.
With their funding, Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC), in collaboration with two community-based organizations (Mother Africa and Chinese Information Services Center), aims to increase community awareness around the importance of indoor air quality and accessible strategies to help community members improve their indoor air quality during wildfire smoke events and throughout the year to help reduce health disparities among frontline communities. Wildfire smoke has turned into a routine hazard in the Pacific Northwest. Communities that already bear a disproportionate burden of respiratory conditions exacerbated by wildfire smoke, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are likely to have the fewest resources available to mitigate their exposure to poor air quality. To help address these issues, Public Health—Seattle & King County will roll out a pilot program for community-based organizations interested in joining PHSKC’s new network of Clean Air Ambassadors, part of a citizen science approach to promoting better air quality in the local community. This effort will involve the development of a community training module and culturally relevant educational materials.
For more information on NACCHO’s climate change work, visit NACCHO’s webpage.
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The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.