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National public health conference focuses on health effects of climate change

Environment, Health

Ensuring that all people are able to protect themselves from the physical, financial and mental health effects of climate-fueled impacts was the focus of the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual conference this week – and The Kresge Foundation helped amplify the message through attendance, participation and sponsorship of the gathering.

The APHA’s 2017 theme – Climate Changes Health – echoes the foundation’s work across program areas to equitably build resilience against climate impacts in low-income communities and address conditions that lead to poor health outcomes.

Kresge Health Program Deputy Director Chris Kabel speaks about SPARCC at APHA

Kresge Health Program Deputy Director Chris Kabel speaks about a grantmaking initiative that blends health, climate and racial equity during the APHA conference this week in Atlanta, Georgia.

The impacts of climate change – more intense heat waves, catastrophic flooding, drought and stronger storms – are particularly harmful for people without the means to properly prepare for to rebuild their lives following devastating events, said David Fukuzawa, managing director of the Health and Human Services programs.

“We share APHA’s recognition that our nation must do a much better job of planning for the increasingly harmful health effects of climate disruptions,” said Fukuzawa. “From western forest fires to the recent spate of destructive hurricanes, it’s clear that the time to fully address these threats is now.”

To that end, some 13,000 public health professionals and others gathered at the APHA conference in Atlanta from Saturday through Wednesday to explore methods to better prepare communities – particularly low-income and underserved communities of color – against the most damaging health effects of catastrophes borne of a more volatile climate.

Kresge program officers from the Health and Environment programs led or participated on panels addressing topics including public health advocacy, engaging policymakers, the racial equity dimension of public health policy and creating effective partnerships to address critical health issues. Representatives from several Kresge grantee organizations also participated in the conference’s sessions.

In preparation for the conference, APHA published a Kresge-authored analysis titled “Bridging Climate, Health and Equity: A Growing Imperative” that explored how underserved communities are typically hit “first and worst” by climate impacts and how to create policies and strategies to better address such disparities. Kresge was also a primary sponsor of the conference.