Climate of Health and Hope: New Opportunities for Public Health Professionals

By Rebecca Rehr

A growing number of public health professionals find themselves responding to the urgent health impacts of climate change, whether they are prepared for this work, or not. We co-hosted this Let’s Talk Climate episode with the American Public Health Association’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity to learn about new initiatives to bolster public health support for local and national climate solutions.

WATCH the full episode here

We discussed the role public health professionals can play to build resilience and center equity, and the growing opportunities to train the current and future workforce to address the climate emergency with:

  • Angela Chalk, Executive Director of Health Community Services and Past President of the Louisiana Public Health Association
  • Mariah Norwood, Infectious Disease American Indian Liaison, Minnesota Department of Health
  • Jaylan Jacobs, Co-President, Emory Climate Analysis and Solutions Team

 

Early in our conversation, we discussed links between climate, food, and culture; working WITH communities and authentically engaging them in solutions; and recognizing community members as experts in their lived experience and impacts, which should be included in training for the current workforce.  

In answering the question about building a climate-ready public health workforce, Jaylan recommended, “Having robust emergency preparedness and response plans, incorporating an equity lens for vulnerable populations. This is not a one-size-fits all solution and we really need to have community-tailored and culturally competent plans for communities across the nation. As COVID-19 has shown us, emergency situations will always exacerbate existing inequities so we really need to carry that into every aspect of public health moving forward.”

Angela also encouraged employers to look at their workplaces holistically, to examine the whole supply chain. “Employers and organizations also need to look at the privileges they have.”  

We also talked about geographic diversity and the need to recognize that climate change looks different in different places. This is core to public health work and to climate leadership. “There aren’t the same climate issues in Minnesota that there are in Georgia or Louisiana; there aren’t the same climate issues within communities of color as in white communities always, and maybe the issues are the same but the way they impact us aren’t and that’s because of systemic oppression and because of systems that have predominantly been created to only benefit white men.” – Mariah

Mariah also reminded us to be thankful for those who have come before us, and to make decisions that will build a healthy future, “As an Indigenous Woman, growing up within my community … I was taught that we are supposed to make decisions in existing on the world as we are with the expectations and the ideologies in mind that the decisions we’re making are going to impact seven generations ahead of us, and that the decisions that we’re choosing, we need to be thankful for seven generations before us for the decisions they made for this Earth to be here and for this relationship we share with nature, with the planet, with everything here, with each other.” And, Angela reinforced this through emphasizing “collected connectedness,” giving the example of the Mississippi watershed and how much of the water that we drink passes through other places to get to our taps and nourish our bodies.

Mostly, our guests encouraged all who are listening to get engaged. To lead. To be the change they want to see in the world and to challenge the status quo. Even if you’re the only one at first, others will join if you’re on the just path. 

“If there isn’t any other topic that we could come together on, we need to come together on the issues of climate, because it affects ALL of us.” – Angela

 

Resources Mentioned During the Episode

Emory Climate Analysis and Solutions Team

Georgia Climate Stories

 

APHA ECO Bookworms book club

Advisory Board members of APHA’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity

APHA & Climate for Health Ambassadors Training – May 11

APHA Membership Information

APHA Tribal Think Tank

National Public Health Week

 

Health Ranked Top Motivator in Support for Climate Solutions

President Biden Sees Climate Change as a Justice Issue: Do Americans?

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance

Climate for Health Moving Forward Toolkit

MomentUs

We Need Climate Solutions that Prioritize Black Births

Reflections: Federal Action on Environmental Justice

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