Launch of the UC Center for Climate, Health and Equity

UCSF students and faculty meet with Senator Feinstein’s office to discuss climate policy. Image of Karly Hampshire

The University of California’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity, in a bid to make “climate change action one of the strongest health interventions of our time,” will officially launch this week with a series of high-level talks. to the public online.

The center, which opened in 2021 at UC San Francisco and brings together representatives from all UC 10 campuses, is working to address the serious health problems caused by climate change and work to ensure that solutions are taken fairly.

Climate change is the biggest health crisis of our time, and it is everywhere. It affects all health pathways.

Dr. Arianne Tehran

There is a deep connection between climate change and health, as heat waves, hurricanes, floods, fires, droughts and other life-threatening events have health consequences, ranging from asthma to hunger to pollution.

The center aims to conduct research on climate health impacts and solutions, educate tomorrow’s climate health leaders, build climate-resilient health systems, and advocate for health and equity in climate policies. In its work for equity, the center acknowledges that climate change will have the hardest impact on vulnerable people, including low-income communities, communities of color, historically marginalized communities, communities affected by systemic racism, and low-income countries.

This week’s events include UC President Michael Drake, MD, and UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, and roundtables on climate change, health, and the fossil fuel industry; climate change and health education, from K-12 to higher education; mental health and climate change; and how California is driving health and equity to advance climate policy. (The full list of events is below.)

“Climate change is the biggest health crisis of our time, and it’s everywhere,” said Arianne Tehran, PhD, professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the center’s founders. “It affects all health pathways.”

At the head of Arianne-Tehran
Dr. Arianne Tehran is one of the founding directors of the center.

Preparing communities for conclusions

Tehran says the increase in rainfall in some areas is leading to a rise in some infectious diseases. Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, are rising sharply; Forest fires are exacerbating existing health conditions, including those “we didn’t even realize”, Tehran says. For example, “One of our medical students has done important work to find out how fire affects skin health.”

Significantly, the center includes equity in its title and as part of its core mission, research shows that many people in underserved and underrepresented areas do not have the resources to tackle climate change and are likely to suffer the worst consequences.

“A big focus of our work is equity,” says Naomi Beyeler, MPH, MCP, managing director of the center. “How do you find climate solutions that not only protect health, but also protect health equity, and address and meet the needs of communities affected by our climate solutions and our health response?”

In the head of Sheri Weiser
Sheri Weiser, MD, is also the founding co-director of the center.

Sheri Weiser, MD, co-founder of the center, researches food insecurity and other social and structural factors in the epidemics of HIV and chronic disease, both internationally and internationally. “It has become very clear that climate change is causing food insecurity and poor health around the world,” says Weiser.

The center also expects community involvement to help prepare for the effects of climate change, including responding to climate-related disasters.

“We look forward to implementing innovative climate adaptation solutions for health and equity,” says Weiser. “We are truly committed to developing pilot programs for community health adaptation and resilience that will be developed in conjunction with front-line communities. And we will bring partners together, share solutions, and develop skills among communities.”

Collaborating to Bring Change

Until recently, schools for health professionals did not comprehensively address the effects of climate change, but since its inception in the year, the Center has helped implement courses on climate and health in the UC system.

“We welcome anyone who wants to work in any climate,” says Tehran. “The overall goal of the center is to build that community in the UC system for change.”

Photo by Naomi Beyeler
Naomi Beyeler, MPH, MCP, is the managing director of the new center. Image by Chachi Ramirez

“Taking advantage of the experience of the entire UC system is one of the great strengths of the center,” says Weiser. “UC campuses are nationwide, and California is at the forefront of climate policy nationally and internationally, which allows us to collaborate with others across the state and strengthen the University’s public service mission.”

The need for solutions will inevitably compromise lawmakers and others in the public sphere. “Health professionals are one of the most trusted voices in creating political will and public will for climate action,” says managing director Beyeler. “The core of our mission is to mobilize the health community to participate in climate action and climate solutions. When we take action on climate change, we are truly incorporating health and health equity.”

Other speakers at the virtual event on Wednesday and Thursday included state and federal officials, climate activists, representatives of affected communities, and many UC campuses and outside faculty members who have discussed these issues.

To learn more about Wednesday and Thursday’s event and to register and receive Zoom links for the panels, please visit the center’s website. Individuals must register individually in each of the five panels. To view and register speakers for each panel:

  • Launch of the UC Center for Climate, Health and Equity, President Drake, Chancellor Hawgood, the center’s founding directors and others on Wednesday, May 25, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Climate change, health and the fossil fuel industry, Wednesday from 2pm to 3pm.
  • Climate change and health education: from Primary 12 to higher education, 10: 30-11: 30 Thursday, May 26.
  • Mental health and climate change, 12: 30-13: 30 Thursday.
  • California Climate Leadership: Advancing Health and Equity in Climate Policy Thursday from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.

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