NPR Story
6:00 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Oregon Counties Plan For The Health Impacts Of Climate Change

Oregon's largest county today released its plan for responding to the health impacts of climate change, joining five others in the state that have looked at what global warming trends mean for people in the Northwest.

With climate models predicting hotter summers and wetter winters across the Northwest, health officials are bracing for more heat-related illnesses, mosquito-borne diseases, and asthma attacks from poor air quality and longer allergy seasons.

The Multnomah County Climate Change and Public Health Preparation Plan analyzed which people in the Portland metro area are especially vulnerable to climate change, which models suggest will bring a rise in average temperatures between 3.3 degrees and 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

"We know that people who are most vulnerable are elders, our homeless population, people of color, low-income community members," said Kari Lyons-Eubanks, a health policy advisor for the county and one of the authors of the plan. "These are all people who don't have the means to adapt or get out of town," she said. "We created this plan so we could work with these communities to build on their strengths and lessen the impacts."

The county's response plan suggests developing early warning systems for high heat days and issuing notifications for asthmatics to stay inside when ozone levels are high. It recommends improving communication with vulnerable communities, adding cooling centers and adding improving green space to cool down neighborhoods known as urban heat islands.

Health officials in other Oregon counties took a close look at other impacts of climate change.

Benton County in the Willamette Valley focused on the potential for heavier rain events and flooding.

Crook County In Central Oregon developed a plan preparing for the health impacts of climate change on drought and the spread communicable diseases.

The North Central Health District, which is made up of Wasco, Gilliam and Sherman counties, is analyzing the impacts of climate change on water quality and mental health as water becomes more scarce in agricultural communities.

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