Advocacy group to meet on climate change and health

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MONTPELIER — Who is most affected by climate change, and why? What can we expect in terms of health effects as the climate continues to change? And, what does this mean for Vermont's future? These questions and more will be discussed at the annual meeting of the Vermont Public Health Association (VtPHA) at Montpelier's Capitol Plaza Hotel May 30.

"When people think about climate change, it's often in abstract ways; they think about shorelines or agriculture'" said Sally Kerschner, president of the VtPHA. "But climate change is personal because it will — indeed, already is — having an impact on individual health. That's you and me, our neighbors, family and loved ones right here in Vermont."

Research shows that climate also disproportionately affects different segments of the population, particularly the young, elderly, those with preexisting health conditions, and people who live or work in areas most exposed to the effects of climate change. This disparity is behind the concept of health equity. "Simple things we might not even think of, such as an elderly person having access to an air conditioner during a heat wave—this is how health equity and climate change intersect," said Kerschner. "So, having these conversations is important for the health of all Vermonters."

The keynote speaker at the event will be Dan Quinlan, chair of the Vermont Climate and Health Alliance, an association of medical professionals concerned about the health effects of climate change.

A panel discussion will feature Quinlan plus Jared Ulmer, MPH, climate and health program coordinator at the Vermont Department of Health and Christine Carmichael, Ph.D., of the University of Vermont's Rubenstein School. Dr. Carmichael has conducted research regarding the impacts of Tropical Storm Irene on the health of affected residents, with a focus on stress, mental health, and long-term recovery.

"We are finding that the stress of dealing with an extreme flooding event, like Tropical Storm Irene, has far-reaching and long-term effects on residents," said Carmichael. "This knowledge can contribute to strategies to better support the health of diverse people and communities who are impacted by climate change."

Also at the event, the Vermont Public Health Association will reveal the recipients of its inaugural Public Health Champion award. This award honors lifelong contributions to the health of Vermonters.

The event will take place from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, 100 Main St., Montpelier, and the public is invited. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. The cost of the dinner and evening is $35 for members of the VtPHA and $40 for nonmembers. To register for the event, go to: https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/TXR91BOV9hfzk1Hzew1YiA

The Vermont Public Health Association (VtPHA) is a statewide membership organization that seeks to positively influence the health of all Vermonters. The VtPHA does this by providing a strong, independent voice for public health in Vermont through advocacy, education and community engagement, and by bringing together professionals, policymakers and partners.

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