The Climate Action Platform at the University of Colorado School of Medicine is dedicated to empowering human potential for a more resilient world. These discrete efforts at mitigating the health impacts of climate change are ingrained with optimism and the ethos that small, cumulative efforts can make a difference.
The Platform tackles the most tenacious problems of adaptation and resiliency with targeted interventions. Leaning on the talents of our academic innovators, the Platform’s metrics of success include empowering communities, supporting research, and sparking workforce development for health challenges to come.
|Hotshot Medicine: Wildland Firefighter First Aid||New Frontiers in the National Science Foundation’s Ice Core Laboratory|
|Beyond The Algorithm: Climate Disaster Response Advanced First Aid (DRAFA), in the Northern Marianas||Becoming an Enviromedic: Climate First Responder|
|Supporting the Science: National Science Foundation Arctic Research Support||Change Agents: Advancing the Frontiers of Climate & Health - The CU Science Policy Fellows|
|Do No Harm: Dr. Tracy Cushing is Leading Change Within Health Care on Diet & Climate Change|
Hotshot Medicine: Wildland Firefighter First Aid
As climate change increases both the intensity and duration of wildland fires, there is an unprecedented demand to train and deploy wildland fire fighters.
Historically, this group has had a lack of medical training, and now the CU Climate & Health program has teamed up with the United States Forest Service to provide the Wildland Firefighter First Aid training program.
This two-day course, taught by our wilderness medicine experts, is designed to keep firefighters safe and resilient while deployed in remote environments and in the face of climate-driven forest fires.
Disasters happen fast and can overwhelm a community’s ability to respond. Essential services are disrupted, and pre-hospital and hospital systems are overwhelmed.
In partnership with the Natural Hazards Center—which seeks to provide resiliency support for vulnerable communities—we have initiated Climate Disaster Response Advanced First Aid training in the Northern Marianas. This 24-hour training program is geared toward lay people and frontline first responders—building a reserve corps of community members trained to scale up in the face of a disaster. The Northern Marianas are particularly vulnerable to climate warming-energized tropical cyclones, sea level rise, and water insecurity. Our Climate DRAFA training provides knowledge, skills, and confidence to prepare for and respond to the injuries and trauma caused by disasters in the hours and sometimes days it takes organized rescue to arrive.
Climate science is the bedrock foundation for data-driven policy solutions supporting climate health. We are privileged to support the National Science Foundation in its mission to empower climate researchers throughout the circumpolar north.
The data it provides underpins our risk assessments about climate change and informs our imperative to act. At CU, we provide medical direction, online medical control, and on ice medical services to NSF researchers and staff performing science in some
of the most remote and hostile environments on Earth. As clinicians, we can think of no better way to utilize our skillsets than helping remote field researchers advance our understanding of ecosystem changes and the ensuing cascades that will affect
Tracy Cushing, MD, associate professor at CU School of Medicine, is the research director and a board member of the Physicians Association for Nutrition (PAN)—dedicated to improving nutrition education and disseminating health research on plant-based diets to allied health providers.
The carbon footprint of meat-based diets is profound. Agriculture and land use are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and we project that food production from plants and animals will need to increase 70% by 2050 [from 2009 study] to meet increasing global food demand. The carbon footprint of meat diets is roughly two times that of plant-based diets, and a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. By making nutrition a core part of health care and by engaging health professionals in efforts towards healthy and sustainable food environments, our partnership with PAN advances the food transformation needed to mitigate climate change as well as “non-communicable diseases” from traditional Western diets.
Global warming has disproportionately affected the cryosphere. As the Arctic is now more accessible than ever before in human history, it has become more relevant to geopolitics and national security concerns. The Department of Defense, seeking our expertise in remote and austere care in the context of climate change, has asked us to stand up a laboratory to assess how to optimize medical care in exposed Arctic environments.
We have partnered with the National Ice Core Laboratory in metro Denver. Utilizing their 40-degree-below facilities, we are studying how medics perform field resuscitations in prolonged cold environments and measuring cognitive and manual dexterity degradation compared with room-temperature controls. This “proof-of concept” laboratory is another opportunity to optimize human health within a changing climate.
Estaiblished in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, the Enviromedic course is designed as a certification for lay people to receive first-responder training, contextualized to climate threats. The course offers participants the opportunity to receive world-class training to build a knowledge base and develop the decision-making skills necessary to effectively (1) understand sources of climate-related health threats facing communities in the U.S., now and in the future; (2) prepare for anticipated climate change impacts through community adaptation and energy resilience strategies; (3) build community health resilience through first responder certifications; and (4) gain a rudimentary understanding of energy services for affected communities (electrical safety training).
The Enviromedic course tailors trainings to emphasize local threats (tropical cyclones, wildfires, degraded air quality, flood/landslides, etc.). In addition to building community resiliency, the Enviromedic certification will be an integral part of the
national priority for health care workforce development in climate and health, and a “gateway” certification to further career opportunities in the health care industry.
Our National Climate & Health Science Policy Fellows are defining what it means to be a climate doctor. The potential for scalability and impact have elevated the following initiatives to the 10x.10 Climate Action Platform:
Todd Miner, EdD
Elaine Reno, MD
David Young, MD