House Preventative Health Policy Division takes on Climate Change

For its second meeting, the Minnesota House of Representative’s new Preventive Health Policy Division took aim at climate change as a factor in healthy lives. This was after the first meeting held earlier in January focused on the vaccine rollout. 

Chaired by Rep. Mike Freiberg (D- 45B), the meeting focused on experts sharing knowledge about not only the impact of climate change on health and wellness of Minnesotans, but also ways that climate change has exacerbated racial disparities in health. 

The meeting took place on the day that President Joe Biden unveiled his plan to combat climate change, seeking to put the breaks on oil and natural gas leases on public lands, and other executive actions aimed at reducing emissions and reach benchmarks outlined by the Paris climate accord. 

Joining the members of the Preventative Health Policy Division were members of the Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division, chaired by Rep. Jean Wagenius (D- 63B). 

Among the speakers was Kristin Raab, director of the Minnesota Climate and Health program at the Minnesota Department of Health, who called climate change “the great amplifier,” in that it was quickly worsening issues such as extreme rain events, increases in asthma, heat waves, etc. 

Dr. Nyasha Spears, a family Physician in Duluth, echoed that sentiment.” Over last 20 years, I have observed changes that should be recognized as harbingers of what is to come,” she said. “They are the canaries in the coal mine.” Spears added she has seen more tick-born illnesses, allergies, and other climate-impacted illnesses in her practice. “We don’t want to wait for Dengue Fever or Malaria to march North to act,” she said. 

Teddie Potter  Director of Planetary Health at the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing, meanwhile, spoke of ways that climate change issues far away across the globe impact us here in Minnesota. “Hurricane Maria shows our interdependence,” she said.

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