Acting U.S. Surgeon General, EPA Administrator lead UW co-hosted event on climate and health

September 18, 2014

On the day before the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Global Health Institute, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Wisconsin Energy Institute and Office of Sustainability join the health and public health communities to engage world thought leaders in A Civil Society Event on Action in Climate Change and Health that begins at 8 a.m. Monday, Sept. 22, in New York City.

Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy join Sir Andrew Haines, professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, to lead a dynamic program that engages thought at the intersection of climate and health. Crossing multiple sectors, Civil Society Event participants will discuss “Diet for a Livable Planet,” “Sustainable Cities, Active Lives,” “Clearing the Air,” and how to move toward a healthy future.

“The Civil Society Event is an amazing convergence of world experts on health, environment, food, transportation and energy, all looking at how addressing climate change will benefit health,” says Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute and a co-organizer of the event. “This is what’s required to move forward.”

“The Civil Society
Event is an amazing
convergence of world
experts on health,
environment, food,
transportation and
energy, all looking at
how addressing climate
change will benefit health.”

Addressing climate change is critical because it affects the future of our society, says Craig Benson, director of the Office of Sustainability. “By focusing on climate change mitigation and adaptation, we promote sustainability, healthy living, and quality of life – all issues important to a successful society.

The Wisconsin Energy Institute (WEI) is happy to co-host the New York event because “energy, the environment and human health are closely connected,” WEI Director Mike Corradini says. “WEI is constantly looking to better understand challenges and identify needs in energy sources, technology, use and impacts. Understanding the global and intertwined impacts of new sources of energy and new energy conversion technologies is critical to ensure a healthy future for us all."

The UW-Madison sponsors of the event showcase the diversity and depth of university expertise available to tackle the problem of climate change and health. “It is a wicked problem that takes a lot of different kinds of knowledge to crack,” says Paul Robbins, director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

“Heat wave deaths? Think extreme weather, social networks and urban infrastructure, which mean climate and atmospheric science, sociology and urban planning," Robbins continues. "Vector borne disease? Think mosquito breeding sites, uneven urban landscapes and sanitarian outreach, which means entomology, geography and public health. UW and Nelson are unusually good at this sort of combined thinking.”

During the event, the Journal of the American Medical Association also will release a new study by Patz, Tracey Holloway, professor of environmental studies in the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, and Daniel Vimont, assistant professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences in the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, and other co-authors.

“Action in Climate Change and Health” is co-hosted by the American College of Sports Medicine, Public Health Institute, the Global Climate and Health Alliance and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Looking at the benefits of climate mitigation, the conference will consider pathways toward a sustainable and healthy future.

The program includes remarks from Lushniak, McCarthy, Horton and Haines, as well as discussions that will cover:

  • Diet for a Sustainable Planet: Reimagining Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition Amidst Climate Change
  • Sustainable Communities, Active Lives: Active Transportation and Urban Design
  • Clearing The Air: The Health and Climate Benefits of Cleaner Energy
  • Catalyzing Action: Putting Health at The Center of Addressing Climate Change

Video from the event will be available in mid-October.