Weather and Climate Services Protecting Public Health: Get Your Questions Answered

by Viviane Silva, Co-Chair, Third Conference on Environment and Health
To address the needs related to reducing climate-weather-water related public health risks, we’ve organized a panel session entitled “Integration of Climate-Weather-Water and Health Information: Strengthening Partnerships and Enhancing Services” during the Third Conference on Environment and Health at the AMS 2012 in New Orleans (Monday 23 January, 4 p.m., Room 333).  Taking part in the discussion will be a distinguished group of experts, including: Dr. Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service; Dr. Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental and Health for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – CDC; Dr. John Balbus, senior advisor for Public Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – NIH; and Dr. John Haynes, NASA, Health  and Air Quality Applications Program Manager.  This is your chance to participate as well.
The topics will include research and data needs, opportunities for shared efforts, and emerging services to support decision makers in the health community. The presenters plan to focus on

  • the changing landscape of society’s need for integrated information to enhance decision making and each agency contribution to this regarding climate, weather, and water information to predict, prevent, or manage public health risks;
  • how CDC, NIH, NOAA, and NASA will work collaboratively with other agencies to  address national, state, local, and tribal needs;
  • how these agencies will support open exchange of data and delivery of information and decision tools; and
  • current efforts to facilitate research and development of services.

The presentations are designed to foster a conversation with the audience. Some of the questions the presenters plan to ask are: What integrated weather/water/climate/health information do you need? What challenges do you face when trying to access data that you need? What would you envision being included in a related Decision Support System or Health Early Warning System? Considering the current fiscal environment, what integrated information would you consider to be the highest priority?
We’re looking for more questions from you.  Post your questions as comments to this entry on The Front Page and we’ll make sure
they will be answered during the panel discussion.

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

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.”