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Climate Resilience

Climate change threatens the very systems on which human life depends – our water, food, shelter, and security. When it comes to transportation, people who ride public transit move more. BARHII works to incorporate principles of health equity into land use and transportation planning and actively focuses on adaptation planning for the Bay Area.

Adapting to Rising Tides

BARHII is engaged in a community resilience process in collaboration with public health departments to address climate change and sea level rise through the Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) project. This project is a regional effort to understand the changes in our environment and their impacts on our communities led by the Bay Conservation Development Commission (BCDC) and integrated into other regional strategies through the Bay Area Regional Collaborative (BARC).


Given today’s major natural disasters and increasing future risks that Bay Area residents are facing, the ability to just withstand urgent shocks is insufficient. Resilience is a need and an opportunity to improve community well being and reverse long-standing health inequities, particularly across race and income groups. Actions to reduce poverty, homelessness, income disparities, and health inequities in low-income communities of color are central to resilience action.

The purpose of Adapting to Rising Tides is to understand how climate change and other natural disasters intersect with ongoing community challenges and to discuss the potential strategies and investments that will increase the physical, economic, and social resilience of neighborhoods. This effort will focus on East Contra Costa and East Palo Alto as two places where in-depth engagement can contribute to creative solutions to increase resilience. This community-public agencies collaboration will contribute to the existing wealth of knowledge and expertise of BCDC and will provide parameters for thoughtful engagement in other communities around the Bay.

Overall, this collaboration includes the co-design of a community engagement process with the support of BARHII, public health departments, BCDC, and BARC. Community organizations, including Ensuring Opportunity in East Contra Costa and Nuestra Casa and YUCA in East Palo Alto, will be framing the resilience issues and possibilities. The process and final product will be a collective design led by community organizations. Public agencies will provide existing information on risk assessment, health indicators, and case studies as well as support on workshops and communication logistics. 

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Previous Climate Change Work

Beginning in June 2009, BARHII has taken advantage of a unique and significant opportunity to incorporate principles of health equity into land use and transportation planning through the development of the Bay Area’s first Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) mandated by Senate Bill 375. SB 375 requires regional planning processes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also requires land use, transportation and air quality agencies to work together, which had little precedent in previous work on the built environment.


BARHII participated in the overall public planning process and secured seats on the Policy Advisory Council to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) as well as several other SCS planning groups (Regional Equity Working Group , Ad Hoc Committee on SCS/RTP Performance Targets and Indicators, SCS Housing Methodology Committee, and the MTC Project Performance Assessment Technical Group).  These work groups allow ongoing opportunities for BARHII members to provide guidance on how the process and decisions impact issues of health inequities in the region.

Along with other key health, social, and environmental justice allies, many health equity successes have been adopted into the planning process.  Key partners include Urban Habitat, Public Advocates, the American Lung Association (ALA), and Regional Asthma Management Program (RAMP), and the 6 Wins for Social Equity Network.  Examples of health equity gains include: adoption of ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets; performance targets aimed at increasing physical activity, improving air quality in the most impacted communities, and reducing the cost of combined transportation and housing costs; the requirement that all projects considered for the final plan undergo an equity analysis prior to inclusion; One Bay Area Grant Program, a grant package incentivizing local communities to increase their affordable housing production and develop more walkable and bikeable communities; the inclusion of an equity-maximizing scenario for study in the plan’s Environmental Impact Report; and the commitment to prioritize the region’s spending priorities for future Cap and Trade revenues for supporting benefits to disadvantaged communities and to adopt a “comprehensive strategy” with a focus on local transit operating support.

Beginning in December 2012 BARHII has expanded its climate change work to efforts focusing on adaptation planning for the Bay Area.  BARHII has helped convene several gatherings of local health department representatives and is partnering with the Joint Policy Committee (JPC), the PHI Center for Climate Change, and the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Health Equity to develop a regional effort to prepare our region’s infrastructure, develop local health department capacity, and build the resiliency of our communities to respond to climate change impacts.

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Climate Change Quick Guides

Climate Change Quick Guides

To support the capacity-building of local health departments, the Built Environment Committee (BEC) has completed the development of a series of five short guides which include information on why climate change is a public health and equity issue, the environmental and health co-benefits of climate change action, how to get involved in climate change action planning, and tangible steps to address climate change.

Quick Guide 01

Climate Change: What's Public Health Got to Do With it?

Quick Guide 02

Health and Equity Co-Benefits of Addressing Climate Change

Quick Guide 03

Climate Change and Health Equity

Quick Guide 04

How Public Health can Address Climate Change

Quick Guide 05

Getting Involved in Climate Change Action Planning

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