Climate change will continue to adversely affect public health by threatening sanitation, altering the distribution of vector-borne disease, increasing the need for effective heat wave responses, introducing new mental health challenges and more. To help cities understand their vulnerability to these impacts and build resilience, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) developed a Public Health System Resilience Addendum for its Disaster Resilience Scorecard for cities.
The addendum includes 24 questions, defining a 0-5 scale for practitioners to quantify their responses (see example below). The questions cover the integration of public health with each of UNISDR’s Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient: disaster governance, disaster scenarios, finances, land use and building codes, ecosystem services, institutional capacity, societal capacity, infrastructure resilience, disaster response, and disaster recovery.
By capturing all of the possible weak spots in the broader health system, the addendum is meant to be a tool for mainstreaming public health considerations into disaster risk reduction plans, rather than just serving as a one-time assessment. Using this integrated approach can help city officials build resilience over time. Recent events like the power outage that led to eight deaths in a Florida nursing home after Hurricane Irma demonstrate the preventable nature of many public health disasters. Ensuring that critical facilities have backup power supplies and that potential hazards are effectively communicated are ways in which effective planning can mitigate loss. By understanding existing vulnerabilities and how these will worsen with climate change, officials can implement essential adaptation measures that will save lives.
Four Twenty Seven contributed to this addendum and has developed a methodology to assess climate risk exposure in U.S. cities and counties. We are continuing research on quantifying local resilience to climate impacts and supporting public health responses to climate change. The forthcoming California Heat Assessment Tool will provide public health officials with an interactive platform to understand the projected increase in extreme heat events in each California census tract, based on the sensitivity of the local populations. It will also show the distribution of frontline individuals, such as the elderly, to inform effective local heat responses. This free, user-friendly tool will be live in mid-August.