Adapting living spaces
Living environments affected by climate events have an impact on health. That means that adapting them to climate change in advance of events is important, and would be beneficial in several respects, especially for people’s health, quality of life and wellbeing.
Evaluation of urban agriculture as green infrastructure for individual and collective resilience to climate and social change
Thanks to this project, decision-makers, professionals in Quebec municipalities and the various institutions involved in food-related programs are better equipped to tackle food insecurity and help achieve food justice, individual and collective resilience to food and better adaptation to climate change.
For example, ensuring thermal comfort in buildings can help reduce the effects of heat on individuals. This may involve improving the insulation and ventilation of rooms or premises, and, where necessary, using air conditioning, although this should not be seen as the only means of cooling buildings. Extending the opening hours of public swimming pools and splash pads or access to air-conditioned public places and reducing heat islands by increasing greenery in urban areas are also effective adaptation solutions to reduce the impacts of heat on health (see the Urban Environments page). A 2017 INSPQ study has shown that, in general, people who live near green spaces suffer less from chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, hypertension), have better mental health and live longer.
Avoiding building in at-risk areas and protecting the built environment against flooding by immunizing buildings or allowing water to circulate freely in flood-ready parts of the building can prevent indirect effects on the mental and physical health of people living in flood-prone areas.
Learn more about the impact of flooding on society.
Adapting monitoring and warning systems
The proper monitoring by public health authorities of various health indicators, such as those related to heatwaves, flooding or certain diseases such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus, makes it possible to identify the people most at risk so that they can be rapidly provided with the help they need when a climate event arises.
For example, Health Canada has rolled out a wildfire smoke prediction system, FireWork, which forecasts fine particle concentrations in the air 48 hours after a forest fire anywhere in Canada. By knowing which people are most at risk of developing respiratory difficulties, help can be targeted and reach those most in need more quickly.
It is also possible to integrate the needs of vulnerable people into public safety plans by adapting evacuation sites to their mobility difficulties, in order to speed up their evacuation in the event of an emergency.
It is important to mention that the deployment of monitoring and warning systems is not straightforward, and involves numerous challenges in terms of data updating, information confidentiality and human resource requirements.
Photo : RNCan.gc.ca
Adapting health services
Adapting also means guaranteeing the continuity of health services when climate events and their impacts occur. Ensuring that healthcare facilities are prepared to meet the increased demand for services, by ensuring the availability and training of staff, the availability of emergency rooms, access to medication, etc., will enable them to act quickly and effectively in the event of a disaster and, more generally, to respond to the impacts of climate change on public health.
Regular verification of the operating condition of healthcare buildings under different future climate scenarios will facilitate the continuity of healthcare services in all climate conditions.
Achieving a fairer society in terms of health determinants and raising individual awareness
Correcting inequalities and reinforcing health determinants will increase the ability of the most vulnerable socio-economic and cultural groups to adapt to climate change (see the Inequalities page). Raising awareness among individuals to encourage them to adopt preventive behaviours is another adaptation measure.
For example, during heatwaves, it’s important to keep cool by drinking water, showering, reducing the time spent in a hot environment, reducing intense physical effort, opening windows at night and closing curtains on doors and windows exposed to the sun. The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) provides information on the symptoms of heatstroke and how to prevent it.
In the context of repeated flooding, it’s important to be able to turn to loved ones, but also to benefit from psychosocial services for mental health support.
Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) information page
Improving the response to the psychosocial needs of individuals and communities affected by climatic hazards in Eastern Quebec regions
This project will improve community and municipal capacity to take charge of community recovery in the event of a climatic disaster.
To learn more about the impact of climate change on health in Quebec and the adaptation solutions available, visit the Institut national de santé publique du Québec’s “Mon climat ma santé” website.