Against the backdrop of wildfires out west, hurricanes down south, and racial injustice and health inequity across the U.S., presenters at a Tuesday Annual Meeting session focused on planning for the health effects of climate change in a just and equitable way.

Moderated by Paul Schramm, a scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Climate and Health Program, the session’s expert panel discussed how health departments, environmental agencies and local authorities can apply a framework of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, also known as JEDI.

In fact, Schramm is working with APHA’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity now to develop a JEDI playbook as a companion to the CDC’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects, or BRACE, framework. With the working title of “Climate Change and Health Playbook: Adaptation Planning for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” the guide will support the work of state, local, territorial and tribal health services in embedding JEDI principles into climate and resilience initiatives, programs and operations.

Surili Patel“Given the state of co-occurring crises we’re in today, it’s so critical that we work together to advance racial equity while also advancing climate solutions,” said APHA’s Surili Patel, director of the Center for Climate, Health and Equity.

The APHA center is compiling the playbook with feedback from state, local and tribal health departments, peer learning groups and partners. The final product will be a step-by-step guide with examples of the JEDI framework in action in a variety of different communities across the country.

Session panelists representing some of those communities shared their experience with incorporating JEDI into climate and health work. Dorette Quintana English, health program and policy specialist at the California Department of Public Health, outlined her state’s legislation, policies and investments to improve health and equity in response to the climate crisis. With public health taking the lead, she said California is bringing together diverse sectors — such as energy, agriculture, housing, land use and transportation — and includes those most affected by climate change in the planning and decision-making process.

Speaker Emily York, program coordinator for the Oregon Health Authority’s Climate and Health Program, noted that “public health taking the lead, I think, can be an adaptation strategy in itself because it strengthens the resiliency of our institutions to be able to work together.”

Public health led the way in creating the Climate Equity Blueprint for Oregon. Now out for public comment, the blueprint is a cross-sector planning project that brought together 20 state agencies to identify climate risks facing the state and recommend strategies to prepare with equity and inclusion as guiding principles.

York wants to make sure Oregon “walks the talk,” though.

“The reality is that many of the best practices in the blueprint aren’t feasible without strategic investment, organizational change, state leadership, staff and resources,” she told attendees.

Underscoring one of the reasons the JEDI framework is so important, all the panelists agreed that while a changing climate can affect anyone, not everyone is equally at risk.

“Communities of color, underserved populations and tribal communities can face systemic injustices that increase the potential health impacts of climate change,” said Shasta Gaughen, environmental director and tribal historic preservation officer at Pala Environmental Department in California. She added that health departments and local authorities can use the JEDI framework to “ensure the voices of those most impacted by climate change are the foundation of adaptation activities.”

Photo of Surili Patel, courtesy The Nation's Health