At Least It’s a Start: Coordinating Federal Climate and Health Programs

January 29, 2011 · 0 comments

by Skyler Goldman, Florida Institute of Technology, Student Correspondent

The Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG) is the US Global Change Research Program’s effort to focus and coordinate wide-ranging, climate-relevant federal efforts in environmental health. As I learned during the Town Hall Meeting on Monday, 24 January, CCHHG is trying to prepare the public for climate change by aiming “to build communities that are healthy and resilient to climate change impacts.” The purpose of the meeting, however, was to determine what AMS Annual Meeting attendees thought were important topics for CCHHG to address.

Interestingly enough, the first suggestion came from a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who said that “funding does not allow for [this kind of] interdisciplinary work.” The rest of the audience seemed to agree. It seems that there is either money available for climatology work, or money available for health work. Put the two together, however, and little funding is available.

John Balbus of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences was quick to say that interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the first goals of the CCHHG, and hopefully funding will come soon as a result of the group’s work.
Another attendee wondered if the CCHHG can achieve its goals. “Existence of this group is reason to be hopeful,” Juli Trtanj, the coordinator of NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative, said. “We now have an opportunity to be forward-looking, [but there’s] a lot of work to be done to make it happen.”

The simple creation of the CCHHG doesn’t seem like a lot of reason to be hopeful in bridging the gap between climate changes and the public, yet it is a start—maybe even a start along a path to potentially making a big difference. Perhaps the larger goal of creating those healthy and resilient communities can one day be realized.

“If we don’t do a better job of bringing the topic to the public,” Trtanj added, “we’re never going to get there. We’ll be here ten years from now going through the same thing.”