Climate Change and Health in Alaska

Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed more than twice as fast as the rest of the United States. These ecological changes are affecting the health of Alaskans. These health impacts vary widely across the state and within communities due to differences in geography, the built environment, lifestyles of people, and many other environmental, social, and demographic factors.

In this course, we explore climate change and health, diving deep into the Alaskan context. We begin by learning about the most common climate and health frameworks and then spend several weeks discussing the health impacts of climate change. We also learn about the role of surveillance and monitoring in climate adaptation and will discuss how public health practitioners are contributing to the field of climate change and health.

Students undertake a semester-long, service-learning project to develop a climate and health profile for our community partner. Through this community-engaged work, students will practice various modes of science communication and develop skills in reviewing scientific literature, secondary data assessment, interviewing, mapping and data visualization, and summarizing multi-media scientific data for public consumption.

Examples of student projects

In Fall 2019, we partnered with the Anchorage Health Department for this course. For their final projects, the students created online Story Maps to explain some of the most pressing health concerns associated with climate change in Alaska. You can review these final projects below.

Alaska Climate and Health Story Maps

Mental Health – “Salmon and Alaskans: Our Fish, Our Health” – Kirsten Nyquist

Air quality – “Air Quality Impacts of Wildfire Smoke Exposure: A Case Study with Two Anchorage Residents” – Amanda Hansen

Food Nutrition and Distribution – “Alaska and Her Salmon: An Early Warning” – Tristan Heil

Vector-Borne Disease – “Anchorage Vector-borne Disease Vulnerability” – Francis Pacillo

Natural disasters – “Natural Disasters and the Changing Climate” – Christian Crapo