This month a project in Cascadia in British Columbia is drawing the link between human health and climate change. Working with researchers from University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver Coast Health and Fraser Health Authority have created a series of maps that spatially represent community vulnerability to four important climate change hazards: higher summer temperatures, wildfire smoke events, ground level ozone pollution, and coastal and river flooding. These hazards can lead to a number of negative physical and mental outcomes, including injury, illness, and death, as well as mental health impacts like stress, anxiety and trauma. The organization’s behind this work stated that one of their major goal’s is to show that climate hazards do not affect all people equally and that efforts to support and protect health outcomes need to consider the social determinants of health. This broad range of personal, social, economic and environmental factors determine individual and population health and include things like income and social status, access to health status, housing, and other factors.
According to an article in the Richmond News, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health are now sharing the data with municipalities, regional districts, First Nations, among others, in the hopes that it can help build “more resilient communities”.
“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing our communities,” said Dr. Michael Schwandt, VCH medical health officer, in the release.
“We can use the information from the index to work with municipalities to build up their capacity to respond. For example, we can see which communities may be more affected by heat, and work with municipalities to develop response plans in those communities, such as opening cooling stations for people during a heat wave.”