Obama Administration Announces Actions to Protect Communities from the Health Impacts of Climate Change at White House Summit

President Obama is committed to combating the impacts of climate change and protecting the health of future generations. 

We know climate change is not a distant threat, we are already seeing impacts in communities across the country.  In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital.  Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries.

Just yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report clearly defining the health, economic, and environmental impacts that can be avoided if we act globally with a sense of urgency to reduce carbon pollution. Since the President released the Climate Action Plan nearly two years ago, the Administration has made tremendous progress. When fully implemented, the policies we have put forward in the last two years alone will reduce nearly 6 billion tons of carbon pollution through 2030, equivalent to taking more than 1.2 billion cars off the road for a year.

The sooner we act, the more we can do to protect the health of our communitiesour kids, and those that are the most vulnerable. That is why, today, the White House is hosting a Summit on Climate Change and Health, featuring the Surgeon General, to stimulate a national dialogue on preventing the health impacts of climate change. At the Summit, the Administration is announcing additional actions to protect our communities from the health impacts of climate change that cannot be avoided, including:

Ø  Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) emPOWER Map:  The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are launching the HHS emPOWER Map. The tool will improve the ability of health officials and emergency managers to rapidly identify the residential areas of people who rely on durable medical equipment (DME) to live independently.  For the millions of people who rely on electricity to power DME, like oxygen concentrators or portable ventilators, a power outage can be a matter of life or death.  Using this dynamic tool, communities can better understand where power restoration and other emergency services are most critical at the state, territory, county, and zip code levels.   The tool also allows hospitals and dialysis centers to anticipate and plan ahead to support this vulnerable population.  In an emergency, additional information can be made available to health departments so they can provide life-saving assistance, while protecting patients’ privacy.

Ø  Creating a National Integrated Heat Health Information System: Heat early-warning systems can serve as effective tools for reducing illness, death, and loss of productivity associated with heat waves. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are announcing that they are building a new National Integrated Heat Health Information System, which will provide a suite of decision-support services that better serve public health needs to prepare and respond. This effort will identify and harmonize existing capabilities and define and deliver the research, observations, prediction, vulnerability assessments, and other information needed to support heat-health preparedness.  To inform the development of early-warning systems, NOAA, CDC, the World Meteorological Organization, the Deutscher Wetterdienst, and the Global Framework for Climate Services will sponsor a workshop in Chicago in July 2015, bringing together scientists from climate, weather, public health, and decision-making communities around the world to assess the state of knowledge, explore lessons learned, and share best practices in developing climate information systems for heat health early warning. To engage and communicate with Chicago, the broader Great Lakes Community, and beyond, the workshop will be accompanied by a town hall event at Chicago’s Field Museum.

Ø  Climate and Health Innovation Challenge Series:  The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Esri (GIS software company), and the HHS Office of Business Management and Transformation (OBMT) are launching a first-of-its-kind Climate Change and Human Health Innovation Challenge Series. The goal of this Challenge Series is to promote innovative approaches and highlight technologies available for understanding the health implications of climate change and improving resilience to adverse effects. This Challenge Series will spotlight the numerous climate and health data sets now available through the US Climate Data Initiative (climate.data.gov), while also identifying and promoting additional relevant data sets. Challenges within the Series will be conducted by a range of public and/or private entities. The first two projects, Esri’s Climate Change and Human Health App Challenge and the U.S. Government’s Dengue Forecasting Project, were announced earlier this month. Today:

o   NIEHS is committing to release a Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Data Challenge in summer 2015. 

o   The American College of Sports Medicine is announcing that it will lead an application challenge that will focus on the relationship between personal physical activity and greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions reductions and health.  

Ø  Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) and the Educate, Motivate and Innovate (EMI) Climate Justice Initiative.  The EJ IWG is announcing the creation of a new subcommittee on climate change impacts.  The subcommittee will focus attention on the needs of vulnerable populations, ensuring that the many federal conversations and actions on climate change, particularly those related to resilience and adaptation, are being informed by and are responsive to the needs of communities with environmental justice concerns.  The group will work to ensure that the knowledge, data, tools, and other resources currently being generated across the federal government are reaching those populations.  As an initial step, the workgroup will launch Phase 1 of the EJ IWG EMI Climate Justice Initiative. The EMI Climate Justice Initiative will use a variety of tools to focus on incorporating equity into climate adaptation planning and implementation.  The initiative will also focus on the next generation of climate justice leaders and expand partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions, including through outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges and Universities. This announcement answers a call in the Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898, signed by 17 federal agencies, to make climate change impacts a focus area

Ø  Local Climate and Energy Webcast Series: Climate Change, Heat Islands, and Public Health: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committing to host a two-part webcast series for local public health officials and environmental agency staff on the connections among climate change, the heat island effect, and public health. This series will address both the short-term response needs that local governments face during heat waves and longer-term strategies for reducing the heat island effect in the future.

Ø  Climate Change and Children’s Health Policy Roundup: The President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children, an interdepartmental working group comprising 17 federal agencies and offices, is seeking examples of policy actions at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels to highlight during national Children’s Health Month in October.  The goal is to disseminate promising practices to raise awareness, share what is working and encourage others to consider similar policies and actions.

Ø  CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project)commits to releasing the publicly disclosed data from 61 US cities that participated in CDP in 2015 which summarizes the climate-risks the cities are facing and the actions they are taking to improve their resilience. Extreme heat, droughts and flash flooding are the most commonly reported risks. Impacts on public health as a result of climate change range from increased risk of waterborne infectious disease, increased risk of vector-borne disease (particularly Lyme and West Nile), in Columbus;" and "increased frequency and intensity of heat waves – and the associated air quality impacts – [which] will have profound public health impacts, particularly for low-income populations and communities of color that are already facing disproportionate health burden," in Portland. Despite the large number of cities facing significant risks, only a third report having a plan in place to adapt to climate change. This gap suggests a window of opportunity for Mayors and local government planners to develop and implement new resiliency initiatives.

Ø  Doubling the Number of Medical, Public Health and Nursing School Deans Committing to Ensure Their Students Are Prepared to Address Climate Change:Today, the Administration is announcing that the Deans from more than 70 medical, public health, and nursing colleges and schools are committing their support to ensuring that the next generation of health professionals are prepared, through education and training, to effectively address the health impacts of climate change.  This commitment aligns with the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy’s Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, with the goal of ensuring that all students and citizens are climate-literate, and builds on the commitment from 30 Deans from nearly three months ago. The Deans making this commitment include:

o   Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Des Moines University

o   Georgetown University School of Medicine, Georgetown University

o   Harvard Medical School, Harvard University

o   Howard University College of Medicine, Howard University

o   University of California Davis School of Medicine, University of California Davis

o   University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco

o   University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine, University of Nebraska

o   Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

o   University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison

o   Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University

o   Washington State University College of Medicine, Washington State University

o   Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

o   Department of Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

o   Boston University School of Public Health, Boston University

o   Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

o   Drexel University School of Public Health, Drexel University

o   Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

o   Florida A&M University Public Health Program, Florida A&M University

o   Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, Florida International University

o   Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University

o   Georgia Regents University MPH Program, Georgia Regents University

o   Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University

o   Georgia State University School of Public Health, Georgia State University

o   T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University

o   Graduate Program in Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

o   Indiana University School of Public Health – Bloomington, Indiana University

o   Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

o   New York University Global Institute of Public Health, New York University

o   Pennsylvania State University MPH Program, Pennsylvania State University

o   Rutgers School of Public Health, Rutgers

o   College for Public Health and Social Justice, Saint Louis University

o   Stony Brook University Program in Public Health, Stony Brook University

o   SUNY Downstate Medical Center School of Public Health, SUNY Downstate Medical Center School of Public Health

o   Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, Texas A&M

o   Thomas Jefferson University, School of Population Health – MPH Program, Thomas Jefferson University

o   Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University

o   School of Public Health, University of Alabama Birmingham

o   University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley

o   UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles

o   Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado

o   Colorado School of Public Health, Colorado State University

o   Colorado School of Public Health, University of Northern Colorado

o   University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida

o   University of Iowa College of Public Health, University of Iowa

o   University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences, University of Louisville

o   University of Maryland School of Public Health, University of Maryland

o   University of Memphis School of Public Health, University of Memphis

o   University of Miami Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Miami

o   University of Michigan School of Public Health, University of Michigan

o   University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, University of Nebraska

o   Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill

o   University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, University of North Texas

o   University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Public Health, University of Oklahoma

o   University of Pennsylvania Master of Public Health Program, University of Pennsylvania

o   University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh

o   University of Washington School of Public Health, University of Washington

o   Walden University Master of Public Health Program, Walden University

o   West Virginia University School of Public Health, West Virginia University

o   Yale School of Public Health, Yale University

o   Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University

o   Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, John Hopkins University

o   NYU College of Nursing, New York University

o   University of California San Francisco School of Nursing, University of California San Francisco

o   University of Maryland School of Nursing, University of Maryland Baltimore

o   University of Michigan School of Nursing, University of Michigan

o   University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, University of Nebraska

o   University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania

o   University of Washington School of Nursing, University of Washington

o   Walden University School of Nursing, Walden University

o   Washington State University College of Nursing, Washington State University

o   Yale University School of Nursing, Yale University

Later this week, the Deans and staff from the medical, public health, and nursing colleges and schools making a commitment are meeting at George Washington University to establish goals, align objectives, and organize actions to ensure that their students receive the education, training, and information they need to understand and act on the health impacts of climate change. This workshop sets the stage for continued collaboration in professional health education, defining needs for further research and identifying inter-professional opportunities to ensure that students are prepared to address the climate-health nexus.

Ø  A coalition of public health, disease advocacy and medical organizations, are reiterating their longstanding commitment to addressing climate change as a public health issue as part of the National Dialogue on Climate Change and Health at the White House on June 23, 2015, by releasing a statement that articulates their consensus on the health impacts of climate change and the need for action to protect public health. These organizations include:

·         Allergy and Asthma Network

·         American Academy of Pediatrics

·         American College of Preventive Medicine

·         American Lung Association

·         American Public Health Association

·         American Thoracic Society

·         Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

·         Health Care Without Harm

·         National Association of County and City Health Officials

·         National Association of Hispanic Nurses

·         National Medical Association

·         Public Health Institute

·         Trust For America’s Health

·         U.S. Climate and Health Alliance