Characteristics of Local Health Departments Involved in Climate Change Mitigation

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Background: Climate change is among the most pressing societal concerns of the 21st century, and according to an APHA policy statement, contributes to many health impacts including rise of “heat-related morbidity and mortality, infectious disease outbreaks, malnutrition, trauma, violence and political conflict, mental health issues, and loss of community and social connections.” Local health departments (LHDs) constitute the backbone of the public health system and can play an instrumental role in land use planning and other essential public health services that mitigate environmental factors associated with climate change.

Purpose: This study identifies the characteristics of public health departments that are directly involved in two climate change mitigation strategies: promoting access to parks and recreation areas, and promoting bicycling and walking as a means of access to community resources and employment.

Methods: The 2016 National Profile of Local Health Departments was used to determine how involvement in climate change mitigation varied based on nine stratifying variables in a bivariate analysis.

Results: Promotion of access to park and recreation areas (50.9%; n=173) and promotion of bicycling and walking as a means of accessing community resources and employment (75.8%; n=269) occurred at a majority of local public health departments. Census region, no reduction in budget compared to previous fiscal year, and size of LHD expenditures were associated with both mitigation strategies. Jurisdiction population was associated with access to parks and recreation areas, while governance category, urban area designation, and strategic plan within the last 5 years were associated with promotion of bicycling and walking.

Conclusions/Implications: Regional differences and fiscal priorities influence LHD involvement in promotion of access to parks and recreation resources, as well as bicycling and walking opportunities. This study illustrates the potential for partnerships between LHDs and park and recreation agencies that seek to mitigate the impacts of climate change.


American Public Health Association Annual Meeting (APHA)


Atlanta, GA