The New York State Department of Health Marks National Public Health Week by Recognizing How Climate Change Affects Vulnerable Communities: Taking Action for Equity

Scientists and global leaders recognize that global warming significantly harms human health; New York is taking action to provide a healthy environment for New Yorkers and future generations, while improving health equity in our communities

New York State Department of Health to collaborate with local health departments in a series of climate-focused workshops this fall

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 9, 2022) – In observance of National Public Health Week, the New York State Department of Health reminds New Yorkers that the impacts that climate change has on the environment can also negatively affect health outcomes, particularly for children, older adults, people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, people of color, people experiencing homelessness, and outdoor workers. Disadvantage and systemic racism exacerbate the negative effects of climate change in low-income and minority communities.

Climate change adds to an already overburdened set of public health challenges, as higher temperatures and more severe weather harm health by increasing heat stress and heat-related injuries and death, exacerbating respiratory conditions and cardiovascular disease, increasing food- and water-borne diseases, increasing the duration and severity of allergies, and increasing drought and flooding risks.

"Historically marginalized communities have both the most limited resources and stand to be the most affected by climate change," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "Here in New York, as we work to address systemic racism, we must be especially vigilant about protecting vulnerable communities – and community resources like clean air and water – from climate events."

With the implementation of New York State's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) in 2019, New York has among the most ambitious climate laws in the world and commits to the State to significant economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reductions while seeking to ensure that frontline and otherwise underserved communities benefit from the State's historic transition to cleaner, greener sources of energy, reduced pollution and cleaner air, and economic opportunities.

The New York State Department of Health receives Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funding as part of the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) project to identify and implement interventions to reduce the risks of climate change on public health that will result from some of the now unavoidable consequences of climate change. Local health departments in New York State play a central role in convening diverse partners to address these challenges and move the needle toward improved health equity and outcomes related to climate risks.

The Department has been working with the New York State Association of County Health Officials to promote awareness about the impacts of climate change and to support local health departments in their efforts to identify actions to reduce those impacts on public health. Workshops with local health departments and their partners will be held in the fall to provide a forum for discussing key climate and health priorities in their jurisdictions. These virtual workshops will each focus on a climate theme, such as extreme heat or flooding, which are of interest to local health departments.

Sarah Ravenhall, NYSACHO Executive Director, said, "Addressing racial and cultural health disparities is a priority for New York's 58 local health departments. Part of that challenge is to understand the impact of climate on public health, especially for those most at risk, and to develop policies and interventions that will best ensure health equity in every community as our world changes with the climate."

The New York State Department of Health has developed a range of resources to promote awareness around the impacts of climate change on health, including the heat vulnerability index (HVI). The HVI is intended to help local and state public health officials identify and map places and populations in New York that may be especially vulnerable to the impacts of extreme heat. New York City has its own HVI information. Vulnerability to heat has been linked to individual characteristics such as linguistic and social isolation, health status, age, and access to air conditioning, as well as community characteristics such as green space, tree density and canopy cover, building density, and paved surface area. These characteristics or "heat vulnerability factors" collectively influence an individual's risk for heat-related health outcomes. Department staff have been working with state and local partners to take action towards reducing these risks, including increasing awareness around the availability of cooling centers and promoting programs that facilitate installation of air conditioning in the homes of vulnerable New Yorkers.

Asthma is a multifactorial chronic disease with contributing causes that intersect with health equity and climate change. Current asthma prevalence is higher among black, American Indian, and multiracial New Yorkers.Higher poverty rates among black and/or Hispanic residents may contribute to these disparities. In general, low-income minority populations have poorer asthma control, in part because populations with lower socio-economic status are more likely to live in neighborhoods with sub-standard housing conditions. Air pollution can also trigger asthma attacks.

New York's Climate Law will reduce air pollution, particularly for areas already burdened with excess pollution. In addition, the Department currently works across health systems and community-based partners to implement key initiatives aimed at improving health outcomes, including reductions in childhood emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and quality of life for children with asthma and their families with an emphasis on addressing health equity and social determinants of health. These efforts align with national evidence-based frameworks, NY's Prevention Agenda goals, and support Medicaid's transition to a sustainable, value-based purchasing framework. The Department's Asthma Control Program maintains the NYS Asthma Data Dashboard to provide the latest available surveillance data at the state, county, and subcounty levels. The Dashboard is an interactive tool publicly available on the DOH website to support partners in understanding and monitoring asthma burden.

For more information about how climate change impacts health please see:

New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) (

Climate, Weather & Health (

Prevention Agenda 2019-2024: New York State's Health Improvement Plan (