Department Hosts Consortium Forum on Climate Resilience in Washington, DC

In recognition of the reality that climate change will impact everyone in the vicinity of Washington, DC, irrespective of state lines, the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) hosted an event to raise awareness about how local academic researchers may be able to help the city prepare for our shared future. More than 40 faculty and students from the nine DC Area Colleges and Universities Environmental and Occupational Health attended the event.

Titled “No One Left Behind: How Lessons Learned from Hurricane Maria Can Catalyze Climate Resilience in DC,” the half-day event featured a presentation by Carlos Santos-Burgoa, MD, MPH, PhD, who holds appointments in the Milken Institute SPH’s Departments of Global Health Department and Environmental and Occupational Health. He was the lead author of the widely publicized study rigorously estimating mortality in Puerto Rico in the five months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

Santos-Burgoa’s talk included advice on how to improve the way that information is recorded on death certificates to help make clear when mortality can be linked to impacts of climate change such as extreme weather. This includes heat waves as well as hurricanes and other storms and weather events that are forecast to occur more frequently with more severe impacts as the climate changes.

The event also featured a discussion with a panel of experts from Washington, DC’s government. Representing DC Department of Health was Paul H. Duray, Jr., FACHE, the interim senior deputy director of Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Administration. Shannon Goodhue, LICSW, the director of Disaster Behavioral Health and Support Collaborations came from the DC Department of Behavioral Health. The DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency was represented by Delores Scott, Esq., chief of the Disability Integration Bureau.

Melissa Perry, ScD, MHS, chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, moderated the discussion and later open forum where participants shared their thoughts. “The event fostered a fruitful discussion and may result in some future collaborations,” she says.

Perry is the founding chair of the DC Area Colleges & Universities Environmental and Occupational Health Consortium, which has held eight meetings since its inception in 2015.