Session descriptions

Climate Data and Information Sources to Support Climate Health Resilience

Abderrahmane Yagouti, Victor Gallant, Caroline Kuate

Canada’s changing climate poses many risks to the health of Canadians. Governments, communities and health care professionals are responding to these emerging risks and working towards building adaptive and resilient public health systems. Several frameworks exist to understand and identify health risks and vulnerabilities to climate change; however, a lack of access to relevant and timely data and information is often a barrier to implementing these assessments effectively. This session will provide a quick update on ongoing climate-related efforts to support our understanding of how climate change is affecting public health and will include an interactive group activity to learn more on, a new online portal for climate data supported by the Canadian Centre for Climate Service at Environment and Climate Change Canada. is a tool that provides user-friendly access to location specific historical and projected climate data and includes a Health Sector Module providing climate indices by health region, analysis and case studies relevant to the Health Sector. You will also hear about some of the challenges in collecting and analysing current climate-related health morbidity and mortality data, some data limitations, and some innovative ideas to improve data sources and link them to environmental and climate datasets.

Using Data Tools to Improve our Understanding of how Climate Change is Affecting Public Health

Leveraging Health Benefits of Climate Action: How Public Health Units across Ontario are working across public health programs and disciplines to leverage health benefits of climate action and climate action for health benefits.

Dr. Charles Gardner, Helen Doyle, Kristen Boulard, Taryn Ridsdale, Louise Aubin, Lyne Soramaki

Public Health Units (PHUs) across Ontario are mandated to assess climate change health impacts, promote healthy built and natural environments, and effectively communicate with the public about climate change (OPHS – Healthy Environments).

With limited resources, many PHUs are focusing efforts on assessing climate change health impacts in their local communities and prioritizing adaptation measures to reduce these impacts and vulnerabilities. At the same time, through other programs (e.g. air quality, healthy eating, physical activity, health equity), PHUs are promoting healthy policy and actions that have co-benefits of climate change mitigation and multiple positive health outcomes.

Through this panel, participants will hear a variety of perspectives from local PHUs who are taking climate action by focusing on a broad range of positive health outcomes and public health programs. Panelists will describe how these health promotion and policy development programs can tackle a number of public health priorities, in addition to climate mitigation.  Panelists will also share insights on benefits of collaborating across public health sectors to achieve multiple goals.

Participants will gain knowledge on how they can promote climate action at their local health unit and within their communities by focusing on multiple health benefits and collaborating across public health programs.

Taking Advantage of the Co-Benefits of Health Promotion Related  To Climate Change and Community Development

Kristen Boulard, Erica Lewis  (This presentation has been incorporated into presentation above)


During this climate change crisis, no amount of mitigation will eliminate all of the impacts of the current damage done. The Public Health Standards set the goals of our work to promote healthy environments, chronic disease prevention, and health equity that is often applicable to climate change resilience and adaptation creating co-benefits that positively affect population health.

Co-benefits are the secondary benefits of any policy created. For example, planting trees can create shade, improve air quality, and reduce localized air temperatures at the same provide the side effect reducing our overall contribution of carbon to the atmosphere. Policies or actions that are promoted to address the impacts of climate change or healthy communities also increase economic activity, or reduce the burdens of healthcare, and offer improvements in our daily lives. Not to mention the jobs tree planting can create, or the physical activity experienced by the planters, soil conservation, and the conservation of biodiversity. Awareness of these co-benefits can be used to persuade decision-makers to adopt promoted policies or maximize the benefits of public health's work.

Building a Case for Climate Mitigation: The Power of Health Co-benefits

From Health Vulnerability Assessments to Adaptation Planning: Perspectives within the Local Context

Emma McDonald, Robert Sanderson, Shawn Zentner, Chris Komorowski, Mira Shnabel

Health vulnerability and adaptation assessments identify areas where the impacts of climate change will necessitate modifications to current health systems, structures and processes as well as ways these systems, structures and processes can adapt in order to minimize the negative health impacts. This session will look at the process of developing health vulnerability assessments with examples from across Ontario. The collective of Northern Ontario Public Health Units, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, Region of Waterloo Public Health and York Region Public Health will share lessons learned and how they approached, or planned to approach, their assessments. This will be an open discussion to share ideas and best practices of how to move forward in developing impactful and sustainable solutions for the potential health impacts of climate change. 

From Health Vulnerability Assessments to Adaptation Planning: Perspectives within the Local Context

The Importance of Cross-Professional Collaboration in Creating Effective Communication Strategies for Climate Change

Austin White & Luke Baulk ​

Current climate change initiatives often focus on raising awareness about the effects that an increase in global temperatures will have on health and well-being; however, without clear call-to-actions and strong communication strategies, these initiatives fail to articulate what the viewer can do to mitigate the effects of climate change. Through this workshop we will be discussing the importance of not only creating evidence-informed messaging, but ensuring that the messaging is delivered in an engaging way that encourages our target audience to enact change. By partnering with graphic design and marketing professionals, public health professionals are better able to understand how to use best-practice guidelines to deliver evidence-informed messaging in effective ways. The session will highlight the importance of creating cohesive messaging, imagery, and a clear call-to-action when creating health promotion initiatives for climate change.

SMDHU Climate Change Story Map

 Ainslie Butler & Brenda Armstrong

Objectives: As part of its Climate Change Action Plan, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) published an interactive GIS product using Esri’s ArcGIS Story Maps® platform to support municipal partners’ awareness and understanding of local climate change projections, associated impacts on health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, and strategies to address the issue. This session will provide an overview of the development process and the Climate Change Story Map, highlighting some capabilities of the platform.

Methods/Approach: The Climate Change Story Map incorporated various available functions within Esri’s ArcGIS® Online platform including Story Map Journals℠, Story Map Swipe℠ and a combination of interactive maps, static maps and images accompanied by text to explore key messages and data from the SMDHU Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment.

Results and Conclusion: The Climate Change Story Map provides a high-level overview of the work done to explore climate change vulnerability in our region to supplement our Vulnerability Assessment. Positive feedback was received during consultation with key municipal and local environmental groups. Respondents indicated the Climate Change Story Map could help them in developing their own climate change action plans. Identified benefits included applying a local lens to climate change impacts and suggestions for action.


Effectively communicating the risks of extreme weather and climate change: a scoping review

Elaina MacIntyre

An important first step toward reducing community vulnerability to climate change is in helping the public understand the potential impacts through effective risk communication. Unfortunately, communicating risk to the public is inherently challenging, particularly for complex issues such as extreme weather and climate change.

We conducted a scoping literature review on the evaluation of risk communication for extreme weather and climate change to inform local public health messaging, consistent with requirements under the Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS, 2018).

This session will highlight risk communication strategies that have successfully helped communities prepare for extreme weather events. We will also discuss how effective risk communication strategies during extreme weather events can be tailored to educate the public about climate change.

Innovating for Effective Communication Strategies around Climate Change

Considering vulnerable populations: opportunities to integrate equity in climate related public health practice

Melissa Perri, Daniel Jubas-Malz, Pemma Muzumdar

Climate change events impact multiple levels of health augmenting mortality and morbidity of various populations. The detrimental impacts of climate change are particularly relevant for communities throughout Canada. Although the entire nation experiences climate related events (i.e. increase in temperature, weather variation), particular social and structural factors such as socio-economic status, race and age have been reported to augment vulnerability among specific groups. Yet, there is limited information on how equity can be considered and integrated into public health practice for climate change adaptation. Literature was reviewed to identify: 1) populations that are vulnerable to climate change events within Canada; 2) factors that perpetuate vulnerability among such populations; and 3) current adaptation methods that have been developed to address climate related disparities. Commenting on this, presenters will discuss remaining gaps in knowledge, as well as opportunities for public health practitioners to consider equity in climate adaptation activities.

“Heat!” – cooling spaces for high-rise places
 George Kapelos

Toronto is expecting a five fold increase in three-day heat waves by 2049, leaving the City’s vulnerable populations at great risk of heat-related health impacts. The city contains almost 1,200 post-war high-rise apartment towers, many of which are found in inner suburbs.  These towers house diverse communities and are located in neighbourhoods poverty, isolation, lack of economic opportunity, social need and health risks are increasing. Most towers lack centralized cooling plants and during summer heatwaves, residents experience inordinate discomfort. Toronto's MOH identified concerns with the health risks from high temperatures inside apartment building units that do not have air conditioning.  Toronto Public Health is exploring strategies to mitigate extreme heat through onsite outdoor cooling spaces adjacent to apartment buildings. A 2017 research project led by an architect asked, what outdoor design interventions can be developed that are safe, inviting and provide relief from excessive summer heat.

A research team conducted a multi-sectoral approach. They documented the issues on film and presented data to students who designed prototypes for outdoor cooling centres.  Community members provided feedback on proposed designs. The study outcomes presents a synopsis of research, cooling centre design proposals and the screening of a short film, documenting the issue.

Health Equity, Climate Change, and Vulnerable Populations


Ontario Public Health Association

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