Tim Tai, Photo Editor

Around the world, health organizations have recognized climate change as a determinant of health and equity. In launching a newly revamped digital certificate program focusing on climate change, Yale’s School of Public Health hopes to convey just that.

Led by the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health, the Climate Change and Health certificate is an 18-week digital curriculum targeted at career professionals who aspire to learn more about the links between a changing planetary climate and global health outcomes.

Though the program was launched four years ago, its recent relaunch, according to its administrators, brings on a slate of new faculty and a refined focus on two key themes: the impacts of climate change outside the United States and an examination of climate change through the lens of social justice.

“Science is continuing to emerge and update, and so the goal is to give people access to the most recent science so that they’re aware of how [climate change] is impacting human health,” said Daniel Carrión, the academic director of the certificate program. “One of the opportunities to improve was to make sure that we are covering more content about other parts of the world, and then to do a more explicit job bringing in issues of justice and equity as we think about climate change.”

The revamped Climate Change and Health Certificate is the continuation of an online certificate program launched in 2018 and initially helmed by Robert Dubrow, faculty director of the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health. With the redesign of the curriculum, Carrión takes over for Dubrow as the program’s academic director. This spring’s cohort will be Carrión’s first time facilitating the certificate program.

Historically, according to Lauren Babcock-Dunning, the director of online and certificate education at YSPH, cohorts have ranged from 80 to 100 students in each of the program’s eight previous iterations. The certificate has catered to professionals at different stages of their careers — from physicians and healthcare providers to epidemiologists, advocates and entrepreneurs. 

“There are so many professionals out there who are not going to go into an MPH on climate change and health but who still want to learn about this topic,” Carrión told the News. “We need the skill sets of not only clinicians, but of urban planners, of people in nonprofits doing work on environmental conservation, and so on to be thinking about this intersection of climate change and health. Offering this bite-sized certificate for folks who aren’t going to pursue an entire degree is a means of doing that.”

Throughout the online program, students take three six-week courses: “Introduction to Climate Change and Health,” “Climate Adaptation for Human Health” and “Communicating Climate Change and Health.” The certificate program supplements asynchronous online content with live discussion groups moderated by a faculty member specializing in climate change and health. 

Babcock-Dunning also emphasized a “remarkably high” completion rate for the program in the past — a metric she attributes to “proactive” measures to check in on students who have missed assignments and the accountability of a live class with professors who are well versed in the subject matter.

“A cohort of learners go through the program together so that they form strong relationships with each other,” Babcock-Dunning said. “And with the program faculty, they engage in discussions on the content. I think that forms a very collegial and rich learning experience”

As part of their redesign of the program, the program’s faculty members shifted the courses’ content to emphasize climate change impacts outside the United States and situate climate impacts in the context of social equity.

For example, rather than just examining climate change’s impact on Lyme disease in the United States, according to Carrión, the program now incorporates case studies of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa or dengue fever in the Caribbean. Additionally, Carrión added, case studies include theories of structural stigma to examine the impact of a climate-related event on the health of marginalized populations.

In September, the certificate program hired Elena Grossman — a senior research specialist at the University of Illinois, Chicago, whose work focuses on climate change and health equity — as the lecturer for the program’s second course, “Climate Adaptation for Human Health.” 

Grossman came to the Climate Change and Health certificate program from 10 years of research and program development into climate resilience in Illinois. In addition to Carrión, she is also joined by Kristin Timm, a research associate with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center and the director of the certificate’s third course on climate communication strategies. 

As part of the redesign process, Grossman sought feedback from previous program participants, who, she said, sought a “practical perspective.” As a result, she centered her course’s content around real-world examples of climate adaptation strategies, evaluating their effectiveness, challenges and utilization of an “equity lens.”

“Thinking about these different types of strategies is using a matrix of health equity, climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Grossman told the News. “How successful is a strategy at addressing climate change mitigation, adaptation and equity? Does it have a big impact on health equity? And how do you go about the process of selecting a strategy for a community?”

As students complete the program, according to Babcock-Dunning, they join a group of over 650 alumni. Many incorporate knowledge about climate change and health into their own careers. According to Carrión and Babcock-Dunning, some alumni changed their professional trajectories to focus on climate and health.

A few of those in academic positions have also launched their own programs in climate change and public health. One alum, according to Carrión, expanded their mental health practice to help address climate change-related anxiety.

“The reality is that climate change is a global problem with a big local impact,” Grossman told the News. “We can learn from other locations, and they can learn from us. This is a battle that we’re all in and it’s all hands on deck: we all need to listen and learn.”

The Climate Change and Health Certificate will launch its redesigned program on April 10.

Giri Viswanathan was a Science and Technology Editor for the News. Previously, he served as a Photography Editor while covering the School of Public Health for the SciTech Desk. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Giri is a junior in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs with a certificate in Global Health Studies.