Climate Change, Health and Equity: Opportunities for Action

This report explores the ways in which climate change, health, and equity are connected, and identifies many opportunities and recommendations for climate adaptation in the public health sector. From the Public Health Institute (PHI), the report analyzes the relationships between the social determinants of health, health inequities, and climate impacts - with an eye on how vulnerable populations overall are facing greater exposure. A number of examples are given of successful projects in which communities and public health organizations are taking action on climate change, health solutions, and social equity.The report addresses how people’s health status and their community environments are among the most important factors in determining the severity of climate change impacts. From this view, both climate change and health inequities are rooted in the same large systems, along with some of the core strategies that addressing social inequities and institutions that create those systems.

PHI’s Climate Change and Health Framework is diagramed in the report, illustrating the pathway between climate change and health impacts, and social determinants of health to health inequities. The Framework illustrates the climate change and health pathways by linking:

  • Health outcomes and health inequities

    Justify why climate change, health, social justice, and sustainability should be part of the same conversation and learn how to put it all together. 

  • Climate change intervention strategies
  • Public health intervention strategies
  • Health Co-benefits and Co-harms of Climate Change Actions
  • Root Causes: Social Inequities, Institutions, and Systems
  • Core Interventions

The report demonstrates the clear nexus between climate interventions and health interventions in the 'Health Co-benefits and Co-harms of Climate Change Actions' section. In addition to linking many mitigation measures, some examples of health and climate adaptation solutions include:

  • Urban greening and green infrastructure yield significant benefits on many fronts - reduced air pollution, ground water filtration and replenishment, reduced flood risk, lower energy expenditures, green spaces for physical activity and food production, lower crime rates and violence, and sequestration of CO2.
  • Some preparedness programs have explicitly incorporated strengthening community social networks, with ancillary mental and other health benefits, and disaster recovery and rebuilding has in some cases fostered community engagement in efforts to reduce health inequities and racial segregation.
  • Revenues from policies that place a price on carbon can be used to invest in disadvantaged communities to foster community economic development and climate resilience and to improve living conditions to promote health and reduce health inequities.

The report offers many actionable recommendations, categorized by the public health strategies mapped out in the Climate Change and Health Framework. Recommendations are outlined for each of the following umbrella strategies: Community Capacity Building and Engagement; Partnerships; Advocacy; Communications; Surveillance and Research; Policy and Systems Change, and Healthy Communities and Environmental Change; Community Health Education; Risk Reduction/Safety Net; Medical Care/Case Management; and Public Health Preparedness. Many local and state level policies and programs are detailed here also - in which these strategies have been applied demonstrating effective interventions for climate impacts on public health. 

In 2013, Public Health Institute funded three community-based organizations to undertake one-year pilot projects designed to make the climate change health connection in their communities. Case studies of these projects are provided in the report:

- the Social Justice Learning Institute in Inglewood, California

- the Environmental Health Coalition in San Diego, Tijuana

- the Adaptation and Resilience Committee of the Oakland Climate Action Coalition

Publication Date: March 2015

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  • Best practice
  • Case study
  • Policy analysis/recommendations


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