Public Health and Climate Change

A guidebook from The Resource Innovation Group on integrating climate planning within public health departments that provides an overview of the health impacts of climate change and related mitigation and preparedness activities, strategies for building successful collaborations, and messaging recommendations.
The guidebook features helpful charts and useful information on specific health impacts of climate change, as well as tips for building strong partnerships and communicating with a range of audiences. It also includes interactive "participant exploration" worksheets that guide public health practitioners through each process.
  • Climate change is a significant and emerging threat to public health and is linked to hundreds of thousands of annual deaths worldwide.
  • National studies show public concern for the health impacts of climate change, but a lack of knowledge on how to address the issue.
  • The primary role for public health practitioners in relation to climate change is to understand the potential impacts on health and develop strategies to reduce risk.
Four-Step Framework for Collaboration
  1. Incorporate future climate projections into your planning processes rather than relying on past frequencies of extreme weather events.
  2. Evaluate your current public health program's planning processes to determine which have the capacity to address projected impacts and which are lacking.
  3. Forge partnerships within a public health department. Forming new collaborations within your department as well as with external partners may open up new funding opportunities.
  4. Evaluate current activities to identify priorities for collaboration.
Steps to developing an effective communication approach about climate-related health risks:
  1. Identify the issue (something familiar to your community, such as heat waves) and your audience (typically the population most at risk, such as the elderly).
  2. Identify perceptions of risk. Work with emergency managers to deliver clear, science-based information.
  3. Identify your communication strategy (goals and objectives, available resources, audience size and needs, involvement of community partners) and method of message delivery.
  4. Develop your message. Consider your audience's specific needs and background.
  • Use messages that capture attention.
  • Avoid fear messaging.
  • Messages should be accessible (not too complex), credible, and personally relevant.
  • Consider what existing knowledge your audience has that you can build from.
  • Focus on practical, achievable actions or outcomes.
  • Avoid contradictions with other health messaging.
Additional communications tips:
  • Framing climate change as a public health issue can engage members of the public, particularly around the co-benefits of mitigation activities.
  • Building a coalition of spokespeople with different backgrounds can leave public health officials free to disseminate information that falls within a comfort zone of expertise.
  • Relate your messaging to your target audience's values or interests.
  • Focus on the human health impacts of climate change and the co-benefits of reducing emissions.
  • Provide a clear path to action.
  • Localize the issue by highlighting health risks that are specific to your region.
  • Explain how climate change is linked to existing public health concerns like air and water quality.
See the full report for more information and recommendations for communicating with colleagues, the public, industry partners, policymakers and planners, and the media.
Date: 2012
Strategic Approach: Other
Strategic Approach: Other

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