Written by Ashley Edworthy, Sustainability Consultant, Energy and Environmental Sustainability

The links between health and climate change focuses on the current and potential role for population and public health professionals in creating low-carbon resilient communities.

The links between human health and climate change are increasingly well-established as seen in the Report of Lancet. Our collective responses to climate change not only have long-term impacts, they can also have shorter-term health co-benefits. For example, reduced fossil fuel use improves air quality, while active modes of transportation such as walking, biking and transit, increase our physical activity and well-being.

Similarly, a larger amount of green space and a robust tree canopy in urban areas enhances resilience to extreme heat while also improving liveability for residents. Through working with local and regional governments on healthy built environments, health authorities help maximize the health co-benefits of climate change actions and policies such as these. In addition, health authorities are engaged in some of the climate change adaptation efforts within our communities.

This past summer, residents and visitors of both Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions faced the health impacts of sustained high temperatures, as well as heavy smoke from wild fires across the province. In collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control, health authorities assisted local municipalities in extreme heat response planning to help ensure vulnerable populations received needed assistance and to identify infrastructure that can help communities keep cool during these kinds of events. Read more on the response plan.

Health authorities also worked in conjunction with Metro Vancouver on air quality advisories for our communities. Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health are also in the process of assessing how the health authorities, public health in particular, can do more and be more intentional in a climate change response. Plan H, the healthy communities initiative sponsored by the provincial government, includes recommendations on how public health programs can be involved in shaping community level climate change actions: communicating to the public on the health effects of climate change, identifying populations most vulnerable to climate change, monitoring the health impact from climate change and working with local governments on climate change resilience.

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