Today’s guest blogger is Abigail Supplee, intern with the APHA Center for Climate, Health and Equity. Abby is an undergraduate student completing a double major in environmental studies and political science at Roanoke College in southern Virginia. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in environmental policy after graduation.

Abigail Supplee, APHA Center for Climate, Health and Equity intern.

Abigail Supplee, APHA Center for Climate, Health and Equity intern.

A public health student, let’s call her Emily, wakes up in her college dorm to get ready for a final day of classes. She sees it’s raining outside and decides to wear her waterproof jacket to cross campus. It’s June, which has been getting not only wetter, but also warmer where Emily is in the Midwest, so she picks shorts and a T-shirt to put on under her jacket.

Emily is experiencing both weather and climate. Weather refers to the conditions outside on any given day. This could be the rain, snow, sun, wind or temperature. Climate refers to the patterns and averages in weather over long periods of time, such as the warmth of June in Emily’s college town.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, puts it like this: weather tells you what to wear that day, while climate dictates what you should have in your closet. Understanding the elements of climate helps you understand how weather might behave. This is why there are predictable rainy seasons, hurricane seasons and cold and hot seasons.

Often, climate is measured in patterns of 30 years or more, looking at the long-term changes in weather that happen gradually over time. Weather itself can change from minute to minute. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, climate change is any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time.

This means that climate change could be a change in temperatures or a change in other phenomena, like rising sea levels, severe storms, long droughts and extreme temperatures. All of these changes in our climate are affecting our health right now.

Rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns, for instance, worsen air quality and can increase rates of allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease, heat-related illnesses, stress and more. For Emily, worsening allergies have begun triggering asthma symptoms and preventing her from enjoying the outdoors and even concentrating in the classroom.

Public health students like Emily can make a difference, though, by learning how to be climate and health champions. The American Public Health Association is committed to bringing awareness to climate change and the impact is has on health and to cultivating an active public health workforce. This summer’s Speak for Health Advocacy Bootcamp at APHA will teach the skills needed to advocate for health.

This two-day event, held in Washington, D.C., will use climate change and health as a case study for public health students, recent graduates and early-career professionals to learn how to advocate for evidence-based public health policies, including how to navigate Capitol Hill, how to amplify advocacy with a communications strategy and how to message an issue.

By speaking about how Climate Changes Health directly to members of the U.S. House and Senate on Capitol Hill, as part of the bootcamp, participants can begin to make a difference. There’s still time to register and secure a spot at the bootcamp by June 15. And check out the APHA Center for Climate, Health and Equity for more about climate change and health.