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Preparedness for Climate Change Among Local Health Department Officials in New York State: A Comparison With National Survey Results

Carr, Jessie L. MPH; Sheffield, Perry E. MD, MPH; Kinney, Patrick L. ScD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: March/April 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 2 - p E24–E32
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31823dea74
Research Article

Context: Climate-change adaptation strategies that address locally specific climate hazards are critical for preventing negative health outcomes, and local public health care officials are key foci for adaptation planning.

Objective: To assess New York State Local Health Department officials' perceptions and preparedness related to climate-sensitive health areas, and compare these with a national sample.

Design: Online survey instrument, originally used in a national survey of local health department (LHD) officials.

Setting: New York State.

Participants: Eligible participants included all New York State city and county LHD officials, 1 respondent per LHD.

Main Outcome Measures: LHD officials' perceptions of (1) local climate-related public health effects, (2) preparation status and programming areas of LHDs, and (3) necessary resources to better address climate-related health risks.

Results: Survey participants, representing a 54% response rate (with 93% of respondents completing more than 90% of the questions), perceived climate change as relevant to public health, and most noted that some of their existing programs already use or are planning to use climate adaptation strategies. Overall, fewer New York State respondents identified concerns or related expertise compared with the previous national survey. Many respondents expressed uncertainty regarding necessary additional resources.

Conclusions: This type of assessment makes clear the high variability in perceived impacts and capacity at the level of LHD jurisdictions, and underscores the importance of sustained support for local climate-change preparedness programming. The implications of these findings are germane to other states with similar decentralized jurisdiction of public health. Findings from such surveys can bolster existing LHD programs, as well as inform long-term and emergency planning for climate change.

The aim of this study is to assess New York State Local Health Department officials' perceptions and preparedness related to climate-sensitive health areas and compare these with a national sample.

Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health (Ms Carr and Dr Kinney); Departments of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine (Dr Sheffield), New York, New York.

Correspondence: Jessie Loving Carr, MPH, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (

The authors thank Ed Maibach, Linda Wagner (NYSACHO); Michelle Chuk, Jennifer Li, and Robert M. Pestronk (NACCHO); and the ClimAID team.

The survey was conducted as part of ClimAID—a New York statewide, multisector climate-change adaptation assessment bringing together researchers and stakeholders to identify local vulnerabilities and suggest effective policy and preparedness strategies. ClimAID was funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the full report is available on line at: The Earth Institute at Columbia University provided additional research funding. P. Sheffield was supported by National Institutes of Health Research Training Program in Environmental Pediatrics (NIH 5T32 HD049311).

The authors report no conflict of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.