Resilience to the health risks of extreme weather events in a changing climate in the United States

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 Dec;8(12):4582-95. doi: 10.3390/ijerph8124582. Epub 2011 Dec 8.


Current public health strategies, policies, and measures are being modified to enhance current health protection to climate-sensitive health outcomes. These modifications are critical to decrease vulnerability to climate variability, but do not necessarily increase resilience to future (and different) weather patterns. Communities resilient to the health risks of climate change anticipate risks; reduce vulnerability to those risks; prepare for and respond quickly and effectively to threats; and recover faster, with increased capacity to prepare for and respond to the next threat. Increasing resilience includes top-down (e.g., strengthening and maintaining disaster risk management programs) and bottom-up (e.g., increasing social capital) measures, and focuses not only on the risks presented by climate change but also on the underlying socioeconomic, geographic, and other vulnerabilities that affect the extent and magnitude of impacts. Three examples are discussed of public health programs designed for other purposes that provide opportunities for increasing the capacity of communities to avoid, prepare for, and effectively respond to the health risks of extreme weather and climate events. Incorporating elements of adaptive management into public health practice, including a strong and explicit focus on iteratively managing risks, will increase effective management of climate change risks.

Keywords: adaptation; climate change; extreme weather events; health impacts; resilience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Disasters
  • Public Health Practice*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • Weather*