Dr. John Balbus, Director of the newly created Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), a program run under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health (OASH), was hosted via teleconference by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) for an informative briefing on the regional and multi-jurisdictional work MARC does across its Environment, Data Management, Emergency Services and Community Development departments at the intersection of Health Equity and Climate Resilience in the region.
MARC Executive Director David Warm spoke on the regional challenges presented by the effects of climate change on vulnerable communities, and how MARC as an organization aligns the three levels of government to address them in a uniquely coordinated fashion. MARC Director of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security Erin Lynch discussed the region’s ability to prepare and respond to increased weather and pandemic emergencies, while Community Development Director Marlene Nagel reported on the step-up in training for health workers addressing the increased hazards and threats to mental health and everyday chronic conditions seen in patients from frontline communities. James Stowe, Director of Aging and Adult Services described the programs that handle this effect on the everyday lives of seniors on a fixed income and with limited mobility. Tom Jacobs, MARC Environmental Programs Director, reported on the work done over MARC’s past fifty years in helping plan sustainable development, insulate our buildings, and protect riparian stream buffers; but also the work it now takes on to handle green infrastructure, water quality and food waste — including the actions suggested to regional municipalities in the KC Regional Climate Action Plan (one of the chief initiatives being the inception of a building energy exchange dedicating to advancing regional performance in one of the largest emissions-producing categories. In attendance was the newly launched exchange’s director, Ashley Sadowski).
Co-hosting the presentation was Dr. Marvia Jones, Director of the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department; and Wyandotte County Health Department Director Juliann Van Liew. Both public officials spoke about the help that regional coordination provides, but also the unmet resource needs requiring cooperation in the first place. Van Liew explained the air particulate tracking resources she can only access with help from neighboring counties due to the lack of required funding.
In attendance were MARC Director of Transportation & Environment Ron Achelpol and Chief Innovation Officer Amanda Graor. Also present was Dr. Lindsey Satterwhite, Administrator of HHS Region 7, as well as CDR Kimberly Davids, Senior Public Health Advisor for Region 7, and Scott Conner, Senior Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist and Executive Officer for Region 7.