This initiative addresses the intersection of local climate change and health-related challenges in San Francisco. Extreme heat, intense storm events, sea level rise, droughts, and air pollution will catalyse significant effects on the environment, economy, and public health –– air quality, for example, is linked to exacerbated asthma symptoms. Logistically, the Climate and Health Program’s success is contingent on resident engagement and support. Initially, gaining public interest was a challenge to this project; in the interest of getting people engaged, the initiative found ways to counterbalance the data-heavy components of the plan with more accessible points of entry.
The Framework recognises that, though all San Franciscans face the impacts of climate change, health disparities in the City affect residents unevenly. Acknowledging that systemic inequality relating to both socio-economic status and health corresponds directly to vulnerability to climate change is an action in itself, working toward environmental justice. By providing maps of community-based organizations with with health services, increasing outreach, and partnering with the City Planning Department, the Framework engages vulnerable populations and increases access to government services. To evaluate areas of need, identify where to allocate resources, and illustrate the impacts of climate change, the Framework has developed indicator systems for community resiliency, a flood health index, and a heat vulnerability index.
The Framework hopes to document ways in which climate change can be formally incorporated into the Department of Health’s strategic planning with the goal of creating long term changes to business as usual within the City. The initiative serves as an example, demonstrating how health departments in other cities can adopt strategies to act to advance broader city-wide climate action. This work has the potential to be particularly impactful in its framing of climate change as a public health issue; and doing so promises to engage a new audiences and reinvigorate commitments to action. Furthermore, the Framework validates the connection between mental health and climate change and provides practical, meaningful steps to address existing and future mental health impacts.