ABSTRACT: Climate change is already affecting the health of Canadians, and is expected to continue throughout the 21st Century. Impacts are widespread, and can be both direct (including injuries and illness from extreme weather events) and indirect (such as access to affordable food and mental health impacts). While climate change is sometimes viewed as a global or national issue, understanding the potential local impacts of climate change is important for public health agencies, which can act as supporters and advocates to reduce climate-related health impacts at the community level. In recent years, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has made local action on climate change a strategic priority. This has included assessing the vulnerability of our communities regarding the anticipated impacts of climate change, and engaging with our communities to mitigate and adapt to these changes. In this lecture we will speak to the importance of climate change as a public health priority, and describe the evolution in thinking that led to our Board of Health’s decision to invest agency time and resources on this topic. We will also review the methods we employed in the vulnerability assessment, and how we have engaged our communities with it to prompt action and change to ensure resilient communities moving forward.
Dr. Gardner has been the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit since 2005, after having served as MOH with the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit for seven years. Prior to that, he worked in general medical practice in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Zimbabwe. Dr. Gardner has been the chair of the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health, president of the Association for Local Public Health Agencies, president of the Ontario Council for Community Health Accreditation, member of the Ontario Public Health Leadership Council, and co-chair of the Healthy Environments Both Natural and Built Table for the Ontario Public Health Sector Strategic Plan. Most recently Dr. Gardner was a member of the Ontario Tobacco Control System Committee and of the Modernization of the Smoke Free Ontario Strategy Executive Steering Committee, and is a member of the Smoke-Free Ontario Scientific Advisory Group and of the Ontario Tobacco Research Network. Dr. Gardner is active personally and professionally on the promotion of health through green, compact, complete, walkable and cycleable communities.
Dr. Kathryn Marsilio is in her 5th year of her Royal College specialty in Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of Toronto. She trained in family medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital and completed her medical doctorate at the University of Toronto. Her Masters of Public Health training was completed at the University of Guelph with a focus on international health. Some of Kathryn’s professional experiences and personal interests include mental health and substance use, Indigenous health, and climate change.