2017 is the Year of Climate Change and Health, a 12-month APHA-led initiative to raise awareness of the health impacts of climate change and to mobilize action. With Earth Day and the March for Science slated for Saturday, APHA’s Surili Patel discusses the significance of the events, the role of environmental public health and activities supporting this month’s Year of Climate Change and Health theme: transportation and healthy community design.

 

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The Year of Climate Change and Health brings more meaning to Earth Day for me this year. Earth Day has always been about conserving our environments, protecting endangered species and doing our part to safeguard the community in which we live. In 2017, we hope to have even greater impact.

Earth Day Network’s campaign this year focuses on environmental and climate literacy. The campaign works to empower a global citizenry to take action in defense of climate change. APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health takes the message a step further to declare a fight against the health impacts of climate change. By mobilizing partners and educating the public on the issues, individuals can make a difference by voting green, as well as becoming a champion of change through advocacy efforts around cross sector collaborations to achieve sound transportation and built environment policies and practices.

Environmental public health
At APHA, there is no separation between the environment and public health. They are inextricably linked. Our health downstream will undoubtedly be impacted by what we see in our environments upstream. Environmental health is the branch of public health that focuses on the relationship between the environment and our health; promotes human health and well-being; and fosters healthy and safe communities. Environmental health is a key part of any comprehensive public health system, which APHA supports. Learn more about APHA’s environmental health portfolio: https://apha.org/topics-and-issues/environmental-health.

One of the three major areas of environmental health we focus on is promoting healthy community design. There is a growing body of evidence that shows how the way we design our communities, including our roads, sidewalks and parks, can impact our physical and mental health. When communities have walkable sidewalks and bike-friendly routes for kids to take to school, students are more active. When people can walk where they need to go, car traffic decreases, and that can improve air quality and respiratory health. When children live in homes that do not contain lead or asthma triggers such as tobacco smoke or mold, they are better able to grow and develop.

We believe everyone deserves to live in a healthy community. As we experience more severe weather events due to climate change, healthy community design strategies and transportation practices can help us minimize and adapt to physical damage and personal harm. It’s only befitting to apply this strategy to the Year of Climate Change and Health.

Activities in April
April is Transportation and Healthy Community Design Month. During this month, we will showcase blog posts from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Institute of Architects, as well as a webinar that will discuss how climate change strategies can improve community design and transportation practices. Presenters will discuss approaches to support healthy, equitable communities.

Also in April, we’ll celebrate Earth Day and our commitment to environmental health as a proud supporter of the March for Science. This timely event will spotlight the remarkable role science has played in improving our lives and galvanize support for science and evidence-based policies.

When it comes to climate change, the science is clear. It is a serious threat to human health. We hope that you will join us in celebrating Earth Day on April 22 by getting involved in the March for Science and Year of Climate Change and Health.