Heat, Fire, Flood and Drought: How Does Climate Change Affect Our Health?
19 Days ◦ 2 Instructors
This course will focus on how climate change is impacting public health in urban environments and rural communities in Mongolia. It will visit sites in central Mongolia to meet with local health officials to gain an understanding of how Mongolia delivers public health programs in both urban and rural areas of the country. It will explore how climate change is affecting health and health care delivery. The instructors will compare the experience of Montana and Native American communities in the US to the public health approaches and challenges in Mongolia.
This course will focus on how climate change is impacting public health in urban environments and rural communities in Mongolia. We will visit sites in Mongolia to meet with local health officials as well as with climate scientists to gain an understanding of how climate change (hotter days, more wildfire, colder winters, drought) is beginning to impact human health. The instructors have just completed an assessment of the impacts of climate change on human health in Montana’s urban, rural and indigenous communities, and will look at similar trends in Mongolia. Invited to share during this course are two Tribal members from Montana involved in climate adaptation, as well as two public health officials from Mongolia.
In this course participants will have the opportunity to explore firsthand how climate change is impacting public health in urban environments and rural communities in Mongolia. Scientists are learning plenty every day about how climate change affects our oceans, forests, waters, and food security. But we are also quickly expanding knowledge on how climate change directly and significantly affects human health and well-being. Through short lectures, readings, site visits and conversations, we’ll learn how shifts in heat days, incidence of wildfire, flood and drought can and are impacting heat stroke, depression, pulmonary disease, vector borne disease, food security and other health issues in Mongolia and in other areas of the world.
Climate change is expected to have a disproportionate impact on countries with lower incomes, on northern regions, and on indigenous peoples worldwide. Mongolia is an excellent laboratory to witness firsthand the impacts climate change is having on the health of individuals, communities and the environment, and how people are working to mitigate these impacts and adapt to a changing global climate. Mongolia has experienced an average temperature rise of over 2 degrees, more than double the world average, and has a sustained indigenous population that faces a changing socio-economic situation that is complicated by climate change. You’ll come away from this course with a good understanding of health issues and climate change in Mongolia and other parts of the world, and how climate and health sciences overlay to paint a picture of our health future.
The class will start with discussions with government, health and climate leaders in Ulaanbaatar, then travel to the countryside to see how climate change is impacting traditional nomadic practices and public health delivery in rural areas. We’ll meet with natural resource managers, public health officials, herders, climate scientists and community members in facilitated conversations. We’ll learn about rural community clinics and observe recorded changes in the landscape.
The impacts of climate change on health are many, including increased mortality related to cardiovascular and respiratory conditions and heat stress, more premature births, rises in rates of depression, spread of infectious disease, and higher morbidity and mortality from gastrointestinal disease during extreme weather events, to name but a few. The literature and recent global reports point to many climate-related events as the culprits, including increased wildfire (pulmonary disease and asthma), more heat days (heat stroke and depression), early runoff and flood (vector borne disease), and summer drought (and related winter dzud and food security issues). Other factors at play are limited access to rural health facilities and poor communication between climate and health scientists and the communities in which they work.
In lectures, conversation and readings, with plenty of time to learn and explore on your own. Each student will have the opportunity to explore a topic of their own interest, and as a group we’ll learn more about issues such as:
- What is a climate health assessment?
- How do we understand the uncertainty around this?
- What are the global and local trends with regard to extreme heat, extreme cold, drought, flooding, fires and smoke?
- How does climate change affect health globally? A review of what we now know are the impacts of climate change on global health concerns.
- How are vulnerable populations especially impacted?
- What are the demographic and socioeconomic trends in Mongolia and current trends in health status/services?
- What can we say about climate-change related health issues in Mongolia with respect to extreme heat, wildfires/smoke, floods and vector borne disease, drought and food security, etc.?
- What actions can health agencies, rural clinics, and health certification programs take to respond and adapt to climate change, and what messaging will be most effective for clinics and communities, community planning, monitoring, policy change, and personal action?
This course is a great fit for those interested in climate science, environmental studies, global health, public health, health disparity research, ecotourism, community engagement, and policy development, all as we assess together our collective global climate future.