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MDHHS releases Climate and Health Adaptation Planning Guide for Michigan Communities Guide intended to help develop, integrate climate and health concepts

Octobe 2, 2020
Contact: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. – Today, as part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released the Climate and Health Adaptation Planning Guide for Michigan Communities.

Developed by MDHHS’ Michigan Climate and Health Program (MICHAP) with the Michigan State University (MSU) School of Planning, Design and Construction and MSU Extension, the guide was created to be accessible and flexible for the unique situations of communities across the state.

“Combatting the effects of climate in Michigan is a team effort. MDHHS has made this effort easier by developing this guide for Michiganders across the state,” said Governor Whitmer. “The health and safety of our families is directly related to the health of our climate. This guide will help us implement the MI Healthy Climate Plan I announced last week and improve our overall public health.”

“While climate change is recognized as one of the greatest threats to public health, few models of climate and health planning currently exist,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “This guide uses a health in all policies approach to help communities in Michigan develop a climate and health adaptation plan or to integrate climate and health concepts into existing planning and decision making.”

Michigan is getting measurably warmer and wetter due to climate change. Those changing conditions result in more extreme weather including heat, heavy rain and winter storm events. Major climate-related health impacts in Michigan include heat-related illness, waterborne diseases, mental stress, respiratory illnesses, vector-borne diseases and physical injury from extreme weather events.

As communities are unique in their makeup, systems and needs, planning for climate and health adaptation can be complex. The guide focuses on core principles upon which each community can build.

Those include:

  • Centering on health and equity.
  • Engaging diverse partners reflective of the community, especially vulnerable and marginalized populations, along with technical stakeholders and decision makers.
  • Incorporating locally relevant climate and health data in decision making.
  • Establishing a shared vision for what successful climate adaptation means to the community.

The process was piloted in Marquette, Mich., starting in 2017. Marquette was chosen as the pilot site due to the community’s demonstrated capacity for climate planning with existing assessments of the environment and infrastructure completed, and access to local expertise. The project brought together stakeholders from across 1,873 square miles representing nearly 30 local units of government, agencies and organizations to address climate and health adaptation.

The pilot resulted in more than 100 potential recommendations and metrics for enacting adaptive planning and environment changes, and prioritization of the recommendations for short- and long-term planning.

“Using Marquette County as the pilot for this guide, gave us an opportunity to bring together stakeholders including, local government agencies and non-profit organizations, the resources of MSU Extension and expertise from the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction. Local leaders are passionate about improving the quality of life and addressing the climate and health challenges for future generations,” said Wayne Beyea, senior outreach specialist, MSU School of Planning Design and Construction. “We know that other Michigan communities are just as passionate, and look forward to expanding the capacity through our work with the Department of Health and Human Services.”

Over the next year, MICHAP will continue to work with MSU to develop a plan for testing the guidebook in other communities across Michigan. MICHAP will work with partners to promote the guide and, as MICHAP capacity allows, provide technical assistance to communities wishing to implement climate and health adaptation plans or best practices.

MICHAP will also work with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Office of Climate and Energy to integrate the guidebook’s lessons into the Catalyst Communities program which seeks to provide education,?training,?planning and technical resources to local public officials as they prepare for climate impacts on emergency response and public health.

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