The health impacts of climate change are already spurring a public health response from people working at state and local health departments, from urban planners to emergency responders and across the field. Today’s APHA Learning Institute on “Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st Century Climate for Health” brought all those players together to learn more about how to respond, prepare and communicate risk with the most vulnerable.

woman talks with two people at table“Climate change is affecting the whole gamut of public health,” said Kim Knowlton of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Columbia University at the institute. “We need to talk to the community to protect people.” She was thrilled, she said, for the chance to spend a full day with like-minded public healthers working to improve the response to climate change.

“People are doing things” in their communities, she said. “It’s great.”

Some of the outreach shared during the morning institute highlighted how public health in Montreal helps local residents during extreme heat events. That includes providing free air conditioners in low-income neighborhoods and keeping community pools open until midnight during heat waves. But as with many public health challenges, the topic needs more study and consistency when it comes to data collection, said Patrick Kinney of the Climate and Health Program at Columbia University.

“We really need to plan,” Kinney told institute attendees. “We need to understand this. We need to adapt.”

Kinney pointed to findings from the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s report “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States” for examples. The report underscores overall impacts of climate change on human health and how some populations, such as the very young and very old, the poor and people with chronic illnesses, are especially vulnerable to climate change impacts.

APHA’s climate change page offers a wealth of resources for those of you wanting to learn more about the issue and make a difference. Those gathered for the institute said they planned to spread the word about what they learned and keep pushing for preparedness, communication and education.

“The vision of this institute is to build the next generation of champions on climate change and health,” said Jennifer Tabola of ecoAmerica.

Want to network with fellow APHA members interested in climate change, learn about climate change events and sessions at the Annual Meeting and get fired up by the great work already happening on climate change and health? Head to the Climate Change Social Hour in Denver on Sunday from 6-8 p.m. at Rialto Café, 934 Sixteenth St.

Photo courtesy of attendees at today's Learning Institute on climate change and health by Michele Late / courtesy The Nation's Health