Climate and Health Adaptation Planning Guide for Michigan Communities

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with Michigan State’s School of Planning, Design and Construction, released their Climate and Health Adaptation Planning Guide for Michigan Communities in October 2020. The purpose of the Guide is to help communities in Michigan and other Great Lakes states develop a climate and health adaptation plan and integrate climate and health concepts into existing initiatives. The Guide describes a step-by-step approach laying out how communities can develop a plan, and includes tools and guidance on how to implement each step. The Guide also uses the real-world example of Marquette County, Michigan as a case study, analyzing how the approach was applied there during a three-year pilot study.  The Guide emphasizes obtaining input from a wide array of stakeholders, particularly from frontline communities, to identify climate-related health risks and build consensus across the community on how to respond to these risks.  Although the Guide was developed for Michigan and other Great Lakes communities, the same or similar approach could also be used by communities across the U.S. more broadly.

The introduction to the guide describes risks to human health from climate change arising from changes in extreme weather events, air and water quality, water supplies, and ecosystems. These changes will affect health through respiratory disease, heat illness, waterborne disease, vector-borne disease, and other illness. To develop the most accessible and flexible plan possible, the Guide emphasizes four principles that will ensure that the community remains successfully engaged through the creation process: 

  • Center on health and equity
  • Engage diverse partners reflecting the community, especially frontline and marginalized populations, as well as technical stakeholders and decision makers
  • Incorporate locally relevant climate and health data
  • Establish a shared vision on what successful adaptation means to the community.

The main body of the Guide describes the four planning phases communities can undertake to create a climate and health adaptation plan that applies the four principles. The Guide recommends that before beginning the phases, the community’s readiness to engage in adaptation planning must be assessed. This includes determining the community’s awareness of and concern about climate change.

The planning phases are:

  1. Engage stakeholders and identify concerns. This includes establishing project leadership, a planning team, and a steering committee. Following this, plan developers should identify the climate trends in their community, identify who the key stakeholders and frontline populations are, and start building partnerships with the community. Lastly, these stakeholders should be engaged early and often to help the team identify climate and health concerns unique to their community. 
  2. Engage the community and develop the plan. This phase requires community visioning; educating the population on climate, health, and adaptation; identifying adaptation options and metrics; creating visualizations of health options (e.g., showing what green infrastructure can look like in neighborhoods); getting feedback from stakeholders and the steering committee; and finalizing the plan.
  3. Prioritize and Implement. This phase involves holding a stakeholder prioritization workshop, wherein the community establishes what health adaptation objectives are most important to them. Planners should then develop a strategy for implementing the climate health and adaptation plan, and finally, implement the plan according to that strategy. 
  4. Monitor, Update and Keep Active. In this final phase, the plan is monitored using the metrics identified in Phase 2, and is updated as needed to ensure it continues to meet the objectives and goals of the community.

Within each phase, the Guide breaks down individualized steps, and provides checklists to ensure that the “expected outcome” of each phase is reached. It also provides a Marquette County Case Study anecdote with each step, to show a real-world example of how each phase and its sub-actions can be accomplished. The Guide also contains a section describing visualization techniques, which are helpful to engage stakeholders. The guide has two appendices. The first has a list and links to published resources on management, health risks from climate change, data sources, planning and vulnerability tools, and other resources. The second contains sample meeting materials from the Marquette case study including agendas, instructions, and forms used to collect information or meeting results.

The guide was prepared by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Climate and Health Program (MICHAP) working with Michigan State University’s (MSU) School of Planning, Design and Construction and the MSU Extension. The preparation of the guide including the pilot was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Climate and Health Program.

Publication Date: October 2020

Related Organizations:

  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • Michigan State University

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Resource Types:

  • Engagement
  • Planning guides

States Affected:

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