Minnesota Assesses Climate Risk to Public Health

Minnesota Assesses Climate Risk to Public Health

Project Summary

Minnesota’s Strategic Adaptation Plan (2010) identifies public health threats from climate change and states the necessity of improving its public health system’s capacity to respond to these threats, particularly for vulnerable populations. Minnesota’s health department worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Building Resilience Against Climate Effects program to develop a vulnerability assessment to better understand (e.g., where health conditions might worsen due to climate change) and characterize the state’s composite climate hazard risk. The assessment enabled the state to identify the counties facing the most significant climate risks based upon threats from extreme heat, outdoor air quality, vector borne diseases and water quality and quantity concerns.

The assessment also led the state to downscale vulnerability and other climate information to make it more accessible and applicable for regional use. To facilitate local action within vulnerable regions, Minnesota provides tools and resources to local municipalities to better prepare residents and reduce the climate-related public health threat. Minnesota’s resilience tools, some examples of which are the “Extreme Heat Toolkit” and a Climate 101 Training, are available to increase the adaptive capacity within vulnerable counties as they anticipate and prepare for the future. Through such resources and actions noted above, Minnesota is helping its public health system -- public health professionals, healthcare providers, and other health officials -- better anticipate and prepare for future climate risk and reduce projected vulnerabilities.

Implementation

To develop a public health adaptation plan, the Minnesota Department of Health established a climate change workgroup comprised of senior management and subject matter experts from different health agency programs, among those were officials from divisions specializing in environmental health, emergency preparedness, public health labs, epidemiology and health tracking, family health, infectious disease, pollution control and vulnerable population health divisions. The plan focused on climate risks from six main pathways:

  • extreme heat events
  • extreme weather events
  • vector-borne diseases
  • air pollution and allergens
  • water quality and quantity
  • waterborne and foodborne diseases

As a result of this proces, several research gaps were identified, among them the need to conduct a vulnerability assessment, the need to better identify and outreach to vulnerable populations and the need for additional research on the complex relationship between climate change and fine particulate matter. (For more on the national status of this research please visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality and Climate Change Page).

Next, the the climate change working group developed a risk map showing both vulnerable populations and county threat prevalence. They worked through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Building Resilience Against Climate Effects Program to develop a profile report that shows the composite climate hazard risk map for the state. The map indicated, at the county level, the most significant climate threats from the six main pathways.

The Minnesota Department of Health, supported by the climate change working group, provided tools for community use and recognized a need for additional community level information. The State provides tools and resources such as its Extreme Heat Toolkit and Climate Change 101 Training, to local municipalities and health departments to help them better prepare for public health impacts.

The Minnesota Climate And Health Profile Report 2015 (PDF) (100 pp, 3 MB) acknowledges that further vulnerability assessments are needed "…at finer geographic levels to help public health departments and others plan for the impacts of climate change." The Minnesota Climate and Health Strategic Plan (PDF) (13 pp, 246 KB) was published in 2016.

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