Online Program

Climate change adaptation strategies for local public health agencies: The heat vulnerability index

Monday, November 2, 2015

Paul A. Biedrzycki, MPH, MBA, CIH, City of Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee, WI
Sarah Deroo, BS, City of Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee, WI
There is no longer argument that global climate change will result in significant public health effects related to ecosystem changes and stressors influencing drinking water, air quality, agriculture output,  disease incidence and extreme weather susceptibility.  The National Association of City and County Health Official’s (NACCHO) Are We Ready Report 2  “Preparing for the Public Health Challenges of Climate Change” states that 8 out of 10 local public department (LHD) directors believe climate change is currently underway.  However, less than 9% felt they had sufficient resources available to protect local residents from climate change related health impacts and less than 5% of departments had programs in place to educate the public.  Lack of funding and technical expertise is often identified as significant challenges for many LHDs in proactively addressing climate change health through cost-effective adaptation strategies.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided funding to several states under the Building Resiliency Against Climate Effects (BRACE) grant program.  Key goals of the BRACE program include engaging diverse stakeholders and communities in developing climate change adaptation strategies and reducing health impacts to already vulnerable populations.  The State of Wisconsin Division of Public Health along with the City of Milwaukee Health Department collaborated in the development of a “heat vulnerability index”  (HVI) as a means of geographically identifying areas within the city that may be most susceptible to extreme heat events.  The HVI utilizes mapping of over 20 variables predictive of heat related illness including built environment, health behaviors, population density and demographics. 

The HVI can be used by LHDs to cost-effectively identify, plan and allocate resources prior to and during an extreme heat event.  The HVI represents a viable climate change adaptation strategy that can be used by LHDs and local policymakers alike to strengthen existing and future preparedness efforts.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Environmental health sciences
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe anticipated population health impacts associated with climate change. Delineate climate change adaptation vs. mitigation strategies. Define variables used within the City of Milwaukee HVI. Illustrate the use of HVI in local preparedness planning and response efforts.

Keyword(s): Climate and Health, Emergency Preparedness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I currently serve as Director of Disease Control and Environmental Health for the City of Milwaukee Health Department
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.