Curriculum

Intentionally blurred view of a lot of bicycles

Bicycle parking area

The Yale School of Public Health's Climate Change and Health Certificate provides a deep dive into three domains professionals in public health and related fields must master to help their communities and organizations address the adverse health impacts of climate change: 

  1. An overview of climate change and health 
  2. Climate change adaptation 
  3. Climate change health behavior and risk communication 

The certificate consists of three six-week courses that blend independent and real-time online learning. The format ensures a rich learning experience and provides the flexibility students need to balance their coursework with their careers. Throughout the courses, three themes are interwoven: The Impact of a Warming World: Climate change and health; Health Equity: Vulnerability and resilience; What Gets Better: Co-benefits of mitigation and adaptation.

Introduction to Climate Change and Health

Course Director: Robert Dubrow, Faculty Director Yale Climate Change and Health Initiative 

Discussion Leader: Brian Thompson, Doctoral Candidate, Yale University

After exploring the fundamentals of climate change science, the course provides an overview of the adverse impacts of climate change on public health. Climate change causes increased frequency of extreme heat, extreme precipitation, floods, droughts, and wildfires. It also results in sea level rise and more intense hurricanes. Climate change transforms and degrades ecosystems and places stress on political, economic, and social systems. Resulting adverse health effects include heat-related illness; respiratory and allergic diseases; vector-borne, foodborne, and waterborne diseases; undernutrition; mental disorders; and the many negative health consequences of population displacement and violent conflict. The course introduces the public health strategies of adaptation and mitigation to reduce adverse health impacts of climate change and discusses the substantial non-climate health benefits of these strategies. Finally, the course emphasizes the concepts of vulnerability and health equity.

Following completion of the course, students will be able to: 

  • At an introductory level, describe how the climate has changed, explain the role of greenhouse gases in climate change, and describe how the climate is predicted to change in the future. 
  • Describe how climate change adversely impacts population health, with differing vulnerability across population sub-groups, through direct effects; through ecosystem transformation and degradation; and through the stress it places on political, economic, and social systems. 
  • Explain how adaptation and mitigation strategies can reduce adverse health impacts of climate change and can generate substantial non-climate health benefits in a just and equitable manner.

Climate Adaptation for Human Health

Course Director: Kathryn Conlon, Assistant Professor, University of California, Davis

Discussion Leader: Chelsea Austin, Lecturer, Yale University

This course discusses how adaptation is formally and informally defined, with detailed examples representing numerous spatial and temporal scales. The course also addresses how to use a range of vulnerability assessments to identify and prioritize opportunities for adaptation, illustrated through methodological and practical examples. The course then delves into the iterative process of adaptation activities, by focusing on the planning, implementing, and improving stages necessary for successful adaptation actions. Finally, successful strategies for adaptation practitioners are identified, focusing on explicit ways to maximize professional networks to create and sustain collaborative adaptation efforts. Throughout, the course focuses on practical examples of adaptation tools and activities that practitioners can implement in their communities.

Following completion of the course, students will be able to: 

  • Explain why intentional adaptation to climate change is necessary for protecting human health. 
  • Describe the iterative process of adaptation planning, implementation, and improvement, including the necessary tools and resources that can be used to move through this process. 
  • Describe the role and network of a climate change and health adaptation practitioner. 
  • Identify three climate change and health adaptation opportunities in the student’s jurisdiction. 
  • Design at least one practical climate change and health adaptation activity/intervention targeting a vulnerable population in the student’s jurisdiction.

Communicating Climate Change and Health

Course Director:  Connie Roser-Renouf, Associate Research Professor, George Mason University, Center for Climate Change Communication

Discussion Leader: Kristin Timm, Doctoral Candidate, George Mason University, Center for Climate Change Communication

This course focuses on communicating with the public about the health risks associated with climate change, as well as the actions members of the public can take to reduce these risks, including both personal risk reduction behaviors and collective actions to advocate for legislative and regulatory changes. Starting with a review of best practices in health risk communication, the course examines the specific challenges of climate change communication and effective strategies to address these challenges.

Following completion of the course, students will be able to: 

  • Describe Americans’ understanding of the health threats posed by climate change and their awareness of protective actions they can take for themselves and their loved ones. Both the general population and those with greater vulnerability to the health effects of climate change will be considered. 
  • Discuss the three factors primarily responsible for shaping people’s adaptive responses to climate change: individual characteristics; social influence; and the built environment. 
  • Describe the role of cognitions – what people know – and affect – what they feel – in guiding individuals’ adaptive behaviors. 
  • Select public information campaign strategies, including objectives, message content, channels, and sources appropriate for reaching segments of the populations with greater and lesser vulnerability to climate change impacts.