Yale Daily News

As wildfires continue to rage through Australia and coastal communities fear rising sea levels across the world, the University’s School of Public Health launched the new Yale Center for Climate Change and Health in response to global concern regarding the environmental crisis.

The center grew out of the Yale Climate Change and Health Initiative, which was founded in 2015 to analyze the effects of climate change on global populations, according to a Jan. 7 press release. In an email to the News, YCCCH Director Robert Dubrow wrote that in addition to creating a world-class academic program, the Center’s aims include the training of future leaders and contributing to the fight against climate change. The Center was approved by the Provost’s Office last month.

“What makes YCCCH especially unique is the framing of climate change as a public health challenge,” Dubrow told the News in an email. “The public health implications of climate change are enormous and multi-faceted. I am excited that Yale, a global leader in so many areas, will be in the forefront of studying the adverse health effects of climate change and how those effects can be minimized in a just and equitable manner.”

While the YCCCH has no designated building, Dubrow told the News that the program’s core instructors will be located throughout the School of Public Health.

According to SPH Dean Sten Vermund, interdisciplinary collaboration is critical to the success of the YCCCH, which has over two dozen affiliated faculty from nearly every corner of the University — from the Yale School of Medicine to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He added that the Center’s programs have attracted students from various disciplines around the University, including the Yale School of Management and the Yale Divinity School.

The YCCCH is one of the few such centers around the country, Vermund told the News in an email. He added that Harvard University, Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Washington have their own respective versions of climate change programs, and Boston University is currently constructing a center.

“This is a significant step forward for the Yale School of Public Health,” Vermund said in the press release. “I am excited to see what important contributions our new research center will make to our understanding of climate change and how we might mitigate human suffering caused by weather. Our partnerships with our sister schools at Yale are an especially appealing element of the YCCCH.”

According to the press release, the SPH will now offer a climate change and health concentration to students within the Master’s of Public Health program. Students who matriculate in the Fall of 2020 will be able to apply for the concentration, Dubrow said. He added that the Center’s leadership is still in the process of determining the concentration’s exact requirements.

New courses will accompany the center’s launch, Dubrow said. He will be teaching EHS 547 “Climate Change and Public Health” and courses like EHS 560 “Methods in Climate Change and Health Research” will also be available along with electives.

Vermund told the News that the Center will also support the vision of associate professor of anesthesiology and epidemiology Jodi Sherman, who will teach EPH 556 “Healthcare Environmental Sustainability Practicum.” In an interview with the News, Sherman said that waste created by the healthcare industry goes largely unnoticed and that some of her duties within the YCCCH involve researching how supplies can be used more sustainably. According to Sherman, “every single thing that we do has to take into account global and planetary health.”

“And so it doesn’t matter if you’re going into engineering, it doesn’t matter if you’re going into business administration, medicine or nursing, or law,” Sherman said. “You should understand that this is the reality of the times and that we have to come together as global citizens to tackle this crisis and have it be part of every single thing that we do.”

According to Sherman, healthcare waste created by single-use plastics and other industry materials has gone largely unresearched.

Dubrow told the News that the High Tide Foundation provides most of the funding for YCCCH, which seeks to have a “significant, measurable impact on climate change mitigation,” according to its website. The Center’s other major funding source is tuition from its Climate Change and Health Certificate program, which offers three online courses to students seeking to address the health impacts of climate change.

The Yale School of Public Health is located within the Laboratory for Epidemiology and Public Health at 60 College Street.

Valerie Pavilonis | valerie.pavilonis@yale.edu