The School of Public Health will bring two doctoral students, additional seminars and a speaker series to campus as part of “Climate Change and Health @ Yale,” a new program whose aim is to train future public health leaders.
The program, spearheaded by Professor of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health Robert Dubrow, will use a $1.3 million grant secured from the Overlook International Foundation to fund three summer internships for MPH students, two doctoral training positions and pilot research grants for faculty. The program will also bring new undergraduate and graduate school seminars and a leadership training workshop, as well as invite a climate change leader-in-residence to give talks around campus. Faculty and student climate change activists said they hope the new program will draw attention to how climate change affects the lives of everyday citizens.
“Everyone is aware of how the climate is changing, but it is also having dramatic effects on health around the world in direct and indirect ways,” said Dean of the School of Public Health Paul Cleary.
Cleary said the new program fits into a growing awareness that public health and climate change are interrelated. The World Health Organization, for instance, has created a list of 14 climate-sensitive communicable diseases that will result in an estimated 250,000 deaths annually between 2030 and 2050. Malaria, childhood undernutrition and diarrhea are among the illnesses that will increase in prevalence as global temperatures rise, Cleary said.
Dubrow said that even in the United States, environmental disasters like wildfires that are caused by climate change can become public health issues. Losing all of one’s belongings in a wildfire, for instance, can lead to trauma that impacts mental health, he said.
Cleary said the program will help address these issues by establishing an educational program on climate change at the school that will train future public health leaders to think of innovative ways to stop climate change and its health consequences. Students from across Yale will be able to access the program’s resources.
Dubrow said the School of Public Health will begin selecting the students to fill the three-year doctoral training positions during this year’s admissions cycle. They will matriculate next September.
Cleary said that already, all MPH students at the School of Public Health must take a course in environmental health studies as part of their core curriculum. He said the new climate change and health program will bring a new case-study class focusing on climate change and health into the core curriculum. Three internships in climate-change health will also be funded, with $4,000 allocated to each student. Faculty will have the opportunity to receive a $35,000 grant to fund research related to the intersection of climate change and health.
Though the program’s undergraduate seminar will only be open to Yale College students, the graduate seminar will admit students across Yale’s graduate and professional schools.
All students at Yale’s schools will be eligible to apply for the program’s weekend-long leadership program, organized in conjunction with the Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale and the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy.
The climate change leader-in-residence — who this year will be climate activist and researcher James Hansen — will give a keynote address at the workshop and will host Master’s Teas during his visit to campus. According to Cleary, the program is unique to Yale.
“A lot of other universities have components in health and climate change,” he said. “But we’re not aware of any broad program with a complete focus on climate change and health.”
Students involved in environmental activism expressed enthusiasm about the program.
Sarah Brandt ’17 said the program will bring a closer emphasis on how the climate affects people.
“People generally feel apathetic about climate because it’s so abstract and distant, so they can’t feel any pressing motivation to care about climate change,” she said. “But when they see how many kids in the very town of New Haven are affected by higher rates of asthma due to pollution, climate change seems more alarming.”
Cleary signed President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan to Protect Public Health, committing to training the next generation of climate leaders, in April.