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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

UIC Professor: Preparing Illinois for the Health Effects of Climate Change

Dr. Samuel Dorevitch, associate professor and interim division director in environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, recently received a five-year award of approximately $1 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the second phase of Building Resilience Against Climate Effects in Illinois (BRACE-IL-II). The purpose of this work is to prepare the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and residents of Illinois for the health effects of climate change by developing a climate change adaptation plan.

Dorevitch
[Photo: Dr. Samuel Dorevitch]

The impacts of climate change include “warming temperatures, changes in precipitation, increases in the frequency or intensity of some extreme weather events, and rising sea levels. These impacts threaten our health by affecting the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the weather we experience,” according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“As the Midwest gets warmer and wetter, health problems that are related to heat and flooding are expected to become more frequent and more severe,” Dr. Dorevitch said.  Along these lines, BRACE-IL-II will continue to focus on heat stress illness, health consequences of flooding (such as gastrointestinal illness, symptoms related to indoor mold growth and physical injuries), exacerbation of chronic respiratory disease by ozone and pollen, vector-borne diseases (such as Lyme disease and West Nile fever) and mental health consequences of extreme weather events.

In order to improve climate change preparedness, an Implementation and Monitoring Strategy (IMS) will be established by a variety of stakeholders, including planning agencies, organizations that address emergency preparedness, the office of the State Climatologist, and a State of Illinois mental health agency, among others. The IMS will build on prior initiatives to identify and work with people who are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change. Once completed, the IMS will be shared with partners and the public.

“The long-term goal of the project is to reduce the burden of climate-sensitive disease in Illinois as climate changes. By building a consensus within the healthcare community, the public health community, the emergency preparedness community, urban planners and the general public, there will be greater priority placed on being climate ready, being resilient and being able to withstand changes in our climate system,” Dr. Dorevitch explained.