Climate Change and Public Health:
What does climate change mean for the people of Mongolia?
18 Days ◦ 2 Instructors
Warmer temperatures are bringing more fires, droughts, and extreme weather events to regions around the world, including Mongolia, and these changes are threatening water supplies, natural resources, and the people who depend upon them. Participants in this course will have the opportunity to spend time in the field with experts in climate science, public health, and natural resource management and examine firsthand the connections between climate change, the environment and human health in one of the most wild and scenic places on Earth. Together, we’ll witness some of the changes underway in a range of settings from Mongolia’s arid lands to its forested mountains. We’ll also meet with healthcare practitioners to gain insight about the climate-related health challenges facing rural and urban communities.
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 and climate scientists to gain an understanding of how climate change (hotter days, more wildfire, colder winters, drought) is threatening human well being. Mongolia, with its vast landscapes, limited infrastructure, and large indigenous population, is particularly vulnerable to climate change. You’ll come away from this course with a good understanding of climate and health issues facing this remote region as well as the social-economic disparities associated with climate-change responses. Hopefully, you’ll also see new opportunities to help chart a resilient and equitable future for Mongolia as well as for your own country.
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. Our travels begin with visits to urban and rural communities en route to the Eg-Uur Valley of Khovsgol Province, a region of stunning lakes and mountains. We’ll meet with healthcare providers in rural community clinics and herders and resource managers observing environmental change. At the end of the course we will travel to in the arid region of Kharkhorin in the Övörkhangai Province. There will also be plenty of time to learn and explore on your own. Each student will explore a topic of their own interest, and as a group we’ll share our insights.
The instructors produced a recent 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 course participants include a Tribal member from Montana US involved in climate adaptation, as well as two public health professionals from Mongolia and Montana US.
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.