White House Introduces Climate Change Initiatives, including CDC Climate Change Health Vulnerability Assessment

As part of the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience was established in November 2013 to provide guidance on how the federal government should respond to the impacts of climate change. In light of early feedback from the task force, the White House has introduced 12 actions that will be taken to prepare for and respond to climate change.

The actions fall within three areas. The first, providing federal resources to support climate preparedness, deals with the distribution of federal funds for the purposes of infrastructure strengthening. Second, rebuilding stronger and safer after natural disasters emphasizes mitigation planning. The final action area, building more resilient communities, will increase the amount of climate change planning guidance provided to state and local government by federal agencies. One of the related actions directly addresses the health impacts of climate change. A new guide released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Assessing Health Vulnerability to Climate Change,” will help health departments identify their communities’ particular climate change-related health vulnerabilities. It also provides guidance on how health departments can develop public health actions targeted at mitigating climate change’s health impacts. The guide’s five step assessment process is as follows:

  1. Determine the scope of the climate change vulnerability assessment (identify area of interest, the projected change in climate exposures at the smallest possible spatial scale, and identify the health outcome(s) associated with these climate exposures).
  2. For these health outcomes, identify the known risk factors.
  3. Acquire information on health outcomes and associated risk factors at the smallest possible administrative unit.
  4. Assess adaptive capacity in terms of the system’s (e.g., communities, institutions, public services) ability to reduce hazardous exposure and cope with the health consequences resulting from the exposure.
  5. Assess adaptive capacity in terms of the system’s (e.g., communities, institutions, public services) ability to reduce hazardous exposure and cope with the health consequences resulting from the exposure.

What are your thoughts on the Obama Administration’s actions to prepare the United States for climate change? How are you assessing climate change vulnerability in your jurisdiction? Let us know in the comments section.

About Erin Roberts

Erin Roberts, MPH, is a Program Analyst on the Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness, and Catastrophic Response team at NACCHO. Her work includes broadening the public's access to medical countermeasures during a severe pandemic, fostering collaboration between public health and pharmacy, and contributing to NACCHO's food safety initiatives.

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