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What is public health adaptation to climate change? Exploring an emerging field of practice in Ontario , Canada. Chris Buse , MA, PhD Candidate Lupina Research Associate, Comparative Program on Health and Society Doctoral Alumni, CIHR Strategic Training Program in Public Health Policy

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What is public health adaptation to climate change? Exploring an emerging field of practice in Ontario, Canada

Chris Buse, MA, PhD Candidate

Lupina Research Associate, Comparative Program on Health and Society

Doctoral Alumni, CIHR Strategic Training Program in Public Health Policy

Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Canadian Public Health Association Conference

May 27, 2014 Toronto ON

overview
Overview
  • Context: Climate change and health in Ontario
  • Study Overview
  • Discussion: Typologies of adaptation practice among Ontario health units
climate change is the greatest threat to human health in the 21 st ce
Climate Change is THE greatest threat to human health in the 21st CE

Direct

Indirect

Exacerbation of health inequalities

Food insecurity

Mental health impacts

Economic impacts of disasters

↑Poor air quality

↑respiratory disease, cancer

Changes in distribution of infectious disease

↑incidence of vector-borne and zoonotic disease

Contamination of food and water sources

↑foodborne and waterborne illness

  • ↑ Heat-related morbidity and mortality
  • ↑Extreme weather and accidental morbidity/mortality
  • ↑ Exposure to UV Radiation
climate change in ontario
Climate Change in Ontario
  • 1948-2006 temperatures have increased 1.3 degrees Celsius across southern Ontario (NRCan 2007)
  • Projected increase of 2-4 degrees C by 2050 (relative to 1971-2000 averages) (Feltmate and Thistlewaite 2011)
  • Source: Adapted from Casati and Yagouti (2010)
the ontario public health standards
The Ontario Public Health Standards
  • Ontario Public Health Standards (2008)
    • Pursuant to Section 7of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act, OPHS outlines mandatory service delivery guidelines for each of the 36 health units in Ontario, specifically:
      • “Conduct surveillance of the environmental health status of the community”
      • “Conduct epidemiological analysis of surveillance data”
      • “Increase public awareness of health risk factors associated with…climate change…by adapting and developing communciation strategies”
      • “Assist community partners to develop healthy policies to reduce exposure to health hazards”
study overview
Study Overview

RQ: How is the OPHS mandate on CC being interpreted by practitioners and translated into action?

methods webscan and interviews
Methods: Webscan and Interviews
  • Web-based content analysis of 36 public health units in Ontario, Canada based on key word search
  • In-depth interviews with 20 public health practitioners from 20 health units
    • 36 contacted for an interview
    • 13 declined to participate on grounds they had nothing to contribute
    • 3 did not reply
interview sample n 20
Interview Sample (N=20)
  • Interview order (6 waves of sampling) was selected using a maximum variation sampling method that sampled cases based on geography (census division), size of health unit, and areas of programmatic focus on climate change

* Includes Toronto

number of ontario health units n 36 reporting climate change related programming from 2013 webscan
Number of Ontario Health Units (N=36) Reporting Climate Change-Related Programming from 2013 Webscan
discussion 1 ophs policy is constraining
Discussion (1): OPHS Policy is constraining

Inaction largely stems from:

  • Blame avoidance and problem denial
  • Waiting for more practical guidance from the province
  • Few enforcement mechanisms
  • A lack of resources, leadership
  • Limited acknowledgement of environmental determinants of health beyond proximal causes
discussion 2 ophs policy is enabling
Discussion (2): OPHS Policy is enabling

Action stems from:

    • Strong federal support (and to a lesser extent the province vis-à-vis the MOE)
    • Champions within organizations who have a ‘different’ reading of the OPHS
  • Existing provincial ‘promising practices’
    • Conducting vulnerability and adaptation assessments
    • Participating in regional climate change strategies
    • Built environment initiatives; ‘organizational greening’
acknowledgements
Acknowledgements
  • My thanks to:
    • Participating Health Units and Staff
    • Blake Poland, Randy Haluza-Delay, Josephine Wong
    • Lupina Foundation, Comparative Program on Health and Society
    • CIHR Strategic Training Program in Public Health Policy
    • Health Canada’s Climate Change and Health Office

chris.buse@mail.utoronto.ca