Climate change and human health-what influences the adoption of adaptation programming in the United States public health system?

Syal, Sana; Wilson, Robyn; Crawford, J.; Lutz, Jonathan
December 2011
Mitigation & Adaptation Strategies for Global Change;Dec2011, Vol. 16 Issue 8, p911
Academic Journal
With growing evidence on how climate change impacts human health, public health agencies should develop adaptation programs focused on the impacts predicted to affect their jurisdictions. However, recent research indicates that public health agencies in the United States have done little to prepare the public for predicted climate change impacts, largely due in response to a lack of resources and priority. This study surveyed Environmental Health (EH) Directors across the United States to determine the extent to which individual level attitudes and beliefs influence the adoption of climate change adaptation programming in a department. The results indicate that an EH Director's perception of the health risk posed by climate change explained 27% of the variance in the number of climate change impacts being addressed. Furthermore, the study found that environmental attitude and political views made strong, unique contributions in explaining the variance in risk perception. The results provide evidence that individual-level attitudes and beliefs, as well as organizational-level barriers influence the adoption of climate change adaptation programs in public health agencies. As a result, increasing EH Directors' perception of risk by highlighting the likelihood and severity of localized impacts may increase the adoption of adaptation programming despite existing organizational barriers (e.g., lack of resources). Given the fact that risk perception has been shown to influence behavior across cultures, these findings are also useful for understanding the influence of individual decision makers on public health programming around the world.


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