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MDHHS highlights links between climate change and health with new planning guide


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has released a planning guide that draws a strong connection between climate change and people’s health.

The document, called the Climate and Health Adaptation Planning Guide for Michigan Communities, is the result of 10 years of research funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


It’s designed to help local health departments, governments, and community organizations work together to protect their at-risk populations when planning how to combat events like flooding and extreme heat.


Lorri Cameron is the principal investigator with the Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation Program under MDHHS, which produced the guide. She says it should convey three main messages to community leaders and residents.


“First of all, that they understand that what they’re seeing out there is related to climate change, all this extreme weather,” she said. “Secondly, that they understand how that connects to their health. And thirdly, that they have an understanding of how they can protect their own community.”


Justin Onwenu, an environmental justice organizer with the Sierra Club in Detroit, says it’s important those messages reach the entire state. 


“This plan, first and foremost, is setting a tone, and making sure that people acknowledge that Michigan will be impacted by climate change, and we’re already starting to see some of the effects of climate change,” he said. 


The guide recommends that communities gather ideas from their most vulnerable residents before drafting a plan to combat climate change, which is something Onwenu says community organizations in Detroit have been doing for decades. 


The recommendations are based in part on a pilot program in Marquette County that began in 2017.

Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.
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