Front cover of the guidebook.

Climate and Health Adaptation Planning Guide for Michigan Communities


October 2, 2020 - <>, MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction; <>, ; MSU students Elena Cangelosi and Joel Arnold; and Amal Shabaan

Executive Summary

The climate is changing in the Great Lakes Region. The average temperature, the frost-free season, total precipitation, and the number of heavy precipitation events all increased from 1951–2017, according to the most recent data available. Around the world, public health agencies have identified climate change as one of the greatest threats to human health. Many communities in Michigan are already experiencing negative consequences on health with the more vulnerable people and places being impacted first and more severely.

The impacts occur unequally because climate change multiplies risk factors such as racial inequity, environmental injustice, economic disparities, access to health care, and aging infrastructure. Future climate-related health impacts can be prevented by mitigating climate change itself through greenhouse gas reduction. However, state and local governments and health departments must also develop climate adaptation strategies to reduce, eliminate or prepare for those health impacts already occurring.

This guide is intended to help communities in Michigan and across the Great Lakes Region develop a climate and health adaptation plan or to integrate climate and health concepts into existing initiatives. A climate and health adaptation plan is defined here as a strategy document that fosters collaboration across disciplines and interest groups to instigate a series of activities toward the common objectives of understanding and then preventing or reducing the anticipated health impacts of climate change in the area.

Communities are unique in their makeup, systems, and needs, which makes planning for climate and health adaptation complex. This guide was developed to be accessible and flexible for the unique situations of urban, suburban, and rural communities. With that in mind, a set of core principles establishes a foundation from which each community can build.

Those include: 1. Centering on health and equity; 2. Engaging diverse partners reflective of the community, especially vulnerable and marginalized populations, along with technical stakeholders and decision makers; 3. Incorporating locally relevant climate and health data in decision making; and 4. Establishing a shared vision for what successful climate adaptation means to the community.

A clear understanding of the impacts on all sectors and subgroups is required in order to prepare for and respond to climate-related health impacts in an equitable manner. Working across sectors to build adaptive capacity is crucial for taking meaningful actions.

This guide utilizes four planning phases: 1. Engage stakeholders and identify concerns; 2. Engage community and develop the plan; 3. Prioritize and implement; and 4. Monitor, update, and keep active. There is also an extensive section on developing visual aids to create buy-in and establish the community’s vision for adaptation in a local context. Within each phase there are detailed sub-steps with checklists and resources that can be used to facilitate and document progress.

Throughout the guide there are case studies and examples from the pilot of this process in Marquette, Michigan. These are included to stimulate ideas relevant to your locale and to illustrate the effectiveness of this approach. The Appendices have templates for conducting community visioning meetings and a curated list of guidance documents, and there is an extensive list of other references with hyperlinks.

We hope this Guide provides readers with the knowledge and tools they can use to build healthier, more resilient communities.



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