October 27, 2015
“Climate Change Policy and Public Health,” the sixth and final Massive Open Online Course offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison this year, launches Nov. 9.
The course will be taught by Jonathan Patz, a professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
“While climate change poses major risks to our health, policy actions to prevent climate change offer enormous and immediate health benefits,” Patz says. “Most benefits will stem from cleaner air and more physical fitness by burning less fossil fuels, as well as from diets with reduced red meat.”
MOOCS are noncredit learning experiences that allow an unlimited number of people from around the globe to participate. They are less like a formal university class and more like a media-rich, informal learning experience. Participants sign up free online and watch educational videos, participate in discussion forums, read articles, and often take quizzes or complete educational activities. They can fully participate in a UW-Madison MOOC on their own schedule and at their own pace.
Though officially live until Dec. 7, the MOOC will remain open unmoderated until the end of the year as a free educational resource.
Patz also serves as director of the Global Health Institute at UW-Madison. For 15 years, he was a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. He also served as co-chair of the Health Report of the first U.S. National Climate Assessment and has published more than 90 scientific papers and three books on the subject of climate change and public health.
The MOOC will explore a number of co-benefits, or near term opportunities of policies that both address climate change and offer enormous health and social benefits — from renewable energy and sustainable food systems, to urban design that allows for more “active” transport. Participants in the MOOC will also hear from prominent guest experts and scholars thinking about these issues.
The open format of the MOOC is ideal for a topic like climate change, says Jason Vargo, postdoctoral fellow with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
“The delivery of information has to be as impactful and far-reaching as the topic being covered,” Vargo says. “Climate change affects all of us and, at the same time, there are many ways to be involved in the solutions. Everyone should have the chance to learn about the benefits of — and their role in — positive actions toward solving this global problem.”
The MOOC will also provide participants hands-on opportunities to develop skills in communicating the science and policy connections between climate change and public health — and these activities are not just happening in the digital realm.
In addition to online content, UW-Madison has created opportunities for participants to meet face-to-face and engage around these topics. Community members around the state will be regularly gathering at their local public libraries for discussions.
In November, world-class thought leaders and experts associated with the MOOC will convene in Chicago at the largest public health meeting in the world, the American Public Health Association annual meeting, to lead an interdisciplinary discussion for varying types of practitioners in the public health community.
The course is open to all, regardless of prior experience. Policy and decision makers may also find the MOOC useful, as it provides a strong foundation in the core linkages between climate change and public policy.