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Emory to establish center that studies how climate change impacts human health
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Rob Spahr
Associate Director, Media Relations & Health Sciences Communications
Thermometer and sun

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ATLANTA – A team of researchers from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health have been awarded a $3.8M grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a center to study the impacts of climate change on health and help develop action-oriented strategies to protect the health of individuals and communities. 

Emory University was one of the first five institutions to be awarded funding through this initiative, and the only institution in the southeastern United States.

The Climate & Health Actionable Research Translation Center (CHART) will advance and translate research on climate risks to protect the health of under-resourced urban populations. The center’s research will focus on heat-related illness in Atlanta and examine factors that may lead to disparities in illness outcomes.

“CHART is a shining example of Emory’s unique climate and sustainability research sensibilities as exemplified in our Climate Research Initiative,” says Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “By examining the disproportionate impacts of climate change on underserved urban populations, CHART will harness Emory’s distinctive expertise in climate research, human health and environmental justice to help protect the most vulnerable not only in our home community of Atlanta, but around the globe.”

In addition to scientific research, CHART will work with community members to identify and prioritize climate and health concerns in Atlanta, as well as develop training materials and other educational opportunities to help clinicians more effectively communicate with patients about heat-related illnesses and other climate stressors.

“Extreme heat already kills more Americans than hurricanes, floods and tornadoes combined, and climate change is making it a lot worse, especially for urban populations who already suffer from the urban heat island effect,” says Yang Liu, PhD, CHART director and chair of the Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.

“We are very grateful for the NIH funding to establish the first ever exploratory climate change and health research center in the Southeast. This provides a significant boost to Emory’s ongoing work as a national leader in climate and health research, and will allow us to work with our partners to build climate change resilience in our communities.”

CHART’s research will work to better understand factors leading to certain populations being more susceptible to heat and will be broken up into two parts:

  • Large-scale studies of people who visit Emory’s hospitals for heat-related illnesses to gain a better understanding their clinical, behavioral, social, economic, and housing-related risk factors.
  • Exposure monitoring of heat and air pollution to fill knowledge gaps in the contribution of residential environments and activities to personal heat exposures among under-resourced populations.

Next summer, the researchers will begin interviewing patients at Emory and Grady hospitals and also providing community members sensors to measure heat and air pollution in their homes. 

“Climate change is the defining public health threat of the 21st century and Georgia has unique vulnerabilities when it comes to climate change—it is hot, has a history of air pollution problems, and includes a number of population-dense communities exposed to hurricanes and sea-level rise,” says Noah Scovronick, PhD, CHART deputy director and an assistant professor of environmental health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. “CHART will bring together scientists from the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory School of Medicine, and Emory College of Arts and Sciences to generate new knowledge about the health risks associated with climate change in under-resourced communities, such as parts of Metro Atlanta, and to translate this knowledge into action through equitable partnerships that enhance health.”

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