Rhode Island 2015 Climate Change and Health Resiliency Report

The Rhode Island Department of Health’s Climate Change and Health Resiliency Report identifies the climate change impacts on public health in Rhode Island, and offers strategies that can strengthen the effectiveness of public health management for climate impacts in the state. The report describes the threats that climate change poses to the state and its vulnerable populations, and details ongoing and planned best practices to counter these threats and protect vulnerable groups. The Department of Health Climate Change Program (HEALTH) has implemented climate adaptation projects that are highlighted throughout the report, along with Rhode Island case studies, and examples of best practices from across the country. 

Explore potential health impacts & vulnerable populations in Rhode Island and best practices from around the country. 

The report contains sections for each of seven focal climate and health impacts faced in Rhode Island: heat, air quality, extreme weather, water quality, vibrio, vector-borne disease and mental health. (Vibrio is a group of marine bacteria found naturally in coastal waters. In RI, Vibrio strains are proliferating in warmer waters - and have the potential to cause disease when infected shellfish are harvested and eaten.) Each report section delineates the primary health impacts, climate projections, respective vulnerable populations, best practices, current projects, and next steps.

A number of projects in Rhode Island are dedicated to managing the impacts of increasing high temperatures, extreme heat events, and storm and disaster risk on vulnerable populations. Some ongoing projects include: 

  • HEALTH and Brown University have partnered to explore the impact of increasing temperatures on health outcomes in Rhode Island, project future impacts of increasing temperatures, and identify the groups most vulnerable to heat. These studies support efforts to target heat-related education for susceptible groups and establish improved means of communicating warnings to widespread audiences.
  • HEALTH’s Climate Change program is collaborating with local community partners to craft response plans for heat emergencies that include adaptation strategies for and communication methods to engage younger, older, and other vulnerable populations. 

  • The "TRI Lab" -  Climate Change and Environmental Justice Lab will investigate ways to reduce the climate change-related public health risks to individuals in three targeted neighborhoods in Providence, RI, and increase the capacities of these neighborhoods to respond to climate change threats.
  • "Disaster Aftermath: Are you Ready" from the OSHA 21(d) Consultation Program offered special training for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to address necessary information to train and prepare employees for safe clean-up operations after natural disasters like hurricanes and snowstorms.

In partnership with the ProvPlan, HEALTH’s Climate Change Program conducted a statewide vulnerability assessment to examine various demographic, social, and environmental factors. The study used 2010 Census data to include the following:

  • Elderly Population
  • Children
  • Poverty and Median Household Income
  • Vehicle Access
  • Educational Attainment
  • Immigrant Populations
  • Linguistic Isolation
  • Percent of Children with an Asthma Claim
  • Average Daily Heat related hospital admissions
  • Flood zones

ProvPlan developed a Social Vulnerability Index for the project, applying a numerical score to each category to help identify which Census tracts many be more vulnerable than others.  


Funded by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Rhode Island Department of Health Climate Change Program is developing a unified climate and health adaptation strategy for Rhode Island based on the best available science and the national CDC Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) Program. The Program convenes experts and resources to better understand potential climate changes in Rhode Island, predict and monitor health effects; is working to identify the populations most vulnerable to climate change; and is developing programs to mitigate the public health impact of climate change.


Publication Date: 2015

Related Organizations:

  • Rhode Island Department of Health


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Best practice
  • Case study

States Affected:


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