Archive for March 2008

Fighting climate change one hour at a time

What are you doing at 8 p.m. on Saturday? How about joining people around the world in making a statement about climate change?

Created to take a stand against climate change, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.

Want to add your voice to the chorus? Join the campaign by turning off your lights and non-essential electrical appliances for one hour on the evening of March 29 at 8 p.m. local time.

Walking the walk: APHA’s Green Team

As part of our efforts to lead by example, APHA is on a quest to move toward greener ways of doing things.

As a first step, a "green team" was established last year that meets monthly to talk about environmental concerns and action items that APHA can work toward. A brown bag lunch screening of “An Inconvenient Truth” kicked off the green team efforts. Since then, a green team logo has been designed, and green tips and reminders have been posted throughout the building regarding water usage, recycling, avoiding bottled water and other ways to green our workspace. All recycling containers have been relabeled for clarity and now include paper, plastic and glass bottles, as well as newspaper and cardboard recycling. The green team also arranged a visit to a nearby green roof to learn about the costs and benefits and to see if that technology might benefit APHA.

Monthly “green facts” are e-mailed to staff to get them thinking about small changes they can make in their lives that can make a big difference. A “take the stairs” program was started to promote exercise and reduce use of the elevators — another great example of how doing what’s good for your health and doing what’s good for the environment are often the same thing!

Other environmental efforts at APHA supported by the green team include a switch to 100 percent post-consumer content copier paper, elimination of styrofoam cups throughout the building, use of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and recycled-content paper towels, and an energy audit to help identify and correct temperature extremes in the building.

Future items on the green team’s agenda include volunteering for a local stream clean-up effort, renewing our push to encourage staff to use the stairs and establishing a battery recycling program. Of course, there is always more to be done and more that we can do collectively. The green team looks forward to learning from the great ideas that are shared throughout this year’s National Public Health Week.

Is your organization working to green your workspace? Share your strategies with others by leaving a comment!

Class act

After talking to and working with a variety of schools and programs of public health, I’ve gotten a sense of what students across the country are doing to promote this year’s National Public Health Week. Below are just a few examples of what students are doing to play their part in fighting climate change.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Md.

• The school’s curriculum includes multiple classes related to climate change, including a sustainability seminar, and classes on the global climate and public health. The MPH program also has a new concentration in climate change and sustainability.
• Johns Hopkins, as an institution, has pledged to go green (sustainability, not just carbon neutrality) and is taking positive steps toward this goal.
• Students participated in Focus the Nation’s interactive webcast, ”The 2% Solution.”
• The student health and human rights group has sponsored multiple speakers on the topic.

Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, Ga.

Themes and planning committees have been organized for each day of National Public Health Week, and activities will include hosting a live “Inconvenient Truth” speaker on Monday night, working to make an administration picnic sustainable and organizing competitive events between departments.

Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa.

Students will send out daily topical e-mails to the entire university community during National Public Health Week, conduct outreach to local middle schools with presentations and activities about climate change, and partner with the Drexel University panel program, “Your Health, Your Home, Your Neighborhood.”

Is there something going on to fight climate change at your school that you want to share? Post a comment below to let everyone know what your campus is doing and how other schools might replicate it!

Tamar Klaiman, MPH
APHA Student Assembly Chair

Save your money, save the world

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report, if everyone consumed like North Americans we’d need five planets to support us. Yep, you read that right — five planets!! What does that say about the effect our consumption is having on the one planet we actually have?

Many supporters of living green to fight climate change talk about the importance of buying smart. And they’re right. Just think about the McMansions, huge SUVs, RVs, wastefully packaged goods, energy inefficient appliances, all the cheap goods sold at your nearest big-box store — and anything else you can think of that has become synonymous with our consumer culture. Our choices as consumers have a huge role to play in whether or not we’re able to lessen our impact on the planet.

But often missing from the buying smart discussion is the equally important concept of buying less. It might not be a popular idea in our society, and it’s a hard habit to break, but reducing consumption is an essential component in addressing climate change. That’s because whatever we consume — food, clothes, housing, transportation, technology, entertainment — is pretty much dependent on the continuous use of fossil fuels.

So in order to contribute to the global goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as individuals we cannot only choose to buy green products, but we can also make the sacrifice to buy less. As tempting as it is to get a good deal, don't buy things you don't need and won't use. For example, borrow from your local library instead of buying books you'll read only once. And don’t pay to cool your home or office to the point that you have to wear a sweater in the summer.

What it really all comes down to is that as a consumer, we each make choices that have an impact on the future of our planet and, in turn, our health. Buying a hybrid SUV is certainly a better choice than buying a Hummer. But it would be an even better choice to buy a hybrid compact car, or better yet, make the tougher choice to not buy a car at all and use a bicycle or public transportation to get around.

Making the choice to buy less can have a huge impact on the planet and in your life. Along with the fossil fuels that aren’t being burned, think about the calories burned by the person who decides to forgo the new car and use their bike to get around. And just think about all the money saved not buying gas! Maybe the choice isn’t as tough as it originally seems…

What are you willing to buy less of? Share your thoughts!

This week in climate change: What climate change will bring

As research is increasingly conducted around the subject of climate change, researchers are learning more and more about the potential effects that the world might face in the not-too-distant future. From increased infectious diseases to political instability caused by widespread migration, the reported effects make it clear that the world must act quickly to fight climate change.

Among the news stories on the many different challenges that climate change is bringing and will continue to bring reported recently via APHA's National Public Health Week News Twitter are these headlines:

Thinking globally, acting locally

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is working to support state health agencies to shore up awareness and capacity around climate change. And the demand for support is proving to be considerable!

In its first major thrust into the climate change arena, ASTHO in 2007 adopted a position statement outlining the actions we should take to support state-based public health activity on climate change. This stance met with widespread enthusiasm. ASTHO has since supported its State Environmental Health Directors (SEHD) group in its efforts to focus on climate change. The workgroup spent its early days immersing itself in the technical side of climate change, but most recently has worked with ASTHO on strategies to raise awareness among fellow public health workers.

Recently, ASTHO commenced a series of monthly webinars on climate change that delve deeper into specific public health issues impacted by climate change. ASTHO’s inaugural webinar, “Climate Change and Changing Vectors,” examined trends, models and predictions for vector-borne diseases. Discussion was led by Dr. Ali Khan, deputy director of CDC's National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-borne and Enteric Diseases, and Dr. Kenneth Gage of CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases. Rather than solely providing a scientific snapshot, Drs. Khan and Gage also presented relevant policy perspectives that helped stir up a healthy discussion with participants.

A testament to the demand for more information, the inaugural webinar received 75 direct callers, including state health officials, senior deputies and many other health agency staff. We learned anecdotally that some health agencies were broadcasting the webinar to meeting rooms, crowded 10 deep! Further illustrating the appetite for information has been the many requests for access to the slides presented during the webinar.

Demonstrating the desire to actively pursue an agenda to help mitigate climate change, the ASTHO-SEHD workgroup continues to broaden its interests, which now include smart growth and the role state health agencies can play in community planning decisions. The future lineup of webinars will tackle climate change impacts on heat events, water and food, among other issues. Further information on the webinar series is available by visiting ASTHO’s Web site.

Gino D. Marinucci, MPH
Senior Director, Environmental Health
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Free press

As you hold your National Public Health Week events in April, be sure to keep The Nation's Health, APHA’s monthly newspaper, in mind.

In an upcoming issue, The Nation’s Health will feature coverage of events held around the nation, and your community event could be one of them.

Send us a short summary of your activities, when it was held, who was involved and what was accomplished. National Public Health Week photos and artwork are also welcome. If possible, digital photos should be at a resolution of at least 300 dpi and should be e-mailed as separate JPEG attachments. Printed photos can be mailed to The Nation's Health. Please note if a photo credit should be given.

“This is your chance to share your ideas and experiences with public health colleagues from around the country,” said Michele Late, the newspaper's executive editor. “Everyone who sends us information will be mentioned. We would love to showcase your work.”

Information should be e-mailed to The Nation’s Health by April 25 or mailed to: Editor, The Nation's Health, 800 I St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001-3710. Everyone who sends their information via e-mail will receive a submission confirmation.

The Nation's Health will send extra copies of the issue to participants who send in their news, so be sure to include your mailing address and the name of a contact person.

For more information on submitting your National Public Health Week news, call (202) 777-2488 or send an e-mail to The Nation’s Health.

This week in climate change: States taking action

Although climate change is a global problem that will certainly require international solutions, there is also a lot that can be done at the local level to address the issue. Here in the United States, several states have gotten involved and are examining strategies to address climate change in their communities.

Among the news stories on different states' approaches to climate change reported recently via APHA's National Public Health Week News Twitter are these headlines:

Doing our part: APHA’s virtual climate change summit

As a key activity for this year’s National Public Health Week, APHA hosted a virtual summit on March 4 of invited climate and health experts. Out of that virtual gathering of researchers, advocates and field workers will come a set of recommendations to help guide our nation’s public health work force as they work with their communities to address climate change. The summit discussion centered on the newly released APHA white paper, “Climate Change: Our Health in the Balance: A Charge for Public Health and the Public,” which was written as a jumping board for summit attendees.

And while there was plenty of discussion and the final recommendations have yet to be fully formed, a few things are clear. As the public health community, we are uniquely qualified to spread the word — to the public, to policy-makers and even among ourselves — about the significant impacts that climate changes will have on our health.

So, from our computers to yours, here’s a rundown of APHA’s virtual climate change summit:

APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin opened the summit, setting the stage for why the public health community has a critical role in the climate change movement. Benjamin also spoke of APHA’s leadership role in helping not only public health workers connect the climate change-health dots, but in helping the public see that climate change will affect us all, where we live, work and play.

Having dialed into the summit from across the country, experts engaged in a lively discussion and debate, provided critical feedback and then voted on a list of 39 potential recommendations aimed at both public health professionals and the public in general. All in all, the summit was a success — APHA got the information needed to develop reasonable and useful recommendations, and National Public Health Week will soon have another tool to help push public health’s voice to the forefront of the climate change dialogue.

Next up, APHA will take feedback gathered at the summit and whittle the recommendations down to a useful list — something that public health workers will be able to use during National Public Health Week activities, and hopefully beyond, to reach out and share with their communities. The final list of recommendations will be officially released during National Public Health Week.

As a side note, kudos to APHA for adopting two of the key recommendations when it decided to hold the summit virtually: to “green” our work practices and lead by example.

Youth take on climate change challenge

Check out the first story in an ongoing series on climate change and public health being published in The Nation’s Health newspaper. Highlighting how climate change affects children’s health, the article also examines why youth are becoming leaders in the movement to curb global warming. The article will also be published later this month on The Nation’s Health Web site.

Students at St. Mary’s College in
St. Mary’s City, Md., draw attention
to global climate change by
jumping into a river in January.