NEHA March 2024 Journal of Environmental Health


Priority and Cost Beliefs of National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) Members and the United States Public From the American Climate Metrics Survey

Climate Statement

Survey Respondent Agreement With Statement (%)





NEHA Members

U.S. Public

NEHA Members

U.S. Public

NEHA Members

U.S. Public

NEHA Members

U.S. Public

I think that it is more important that we prioritize economic growth over taking action on climate change. We could address climate change, but the costs and sacrifices are too high.
















Note. Chi-square analyses were conducted on the 2019 data only. NA = not applicable because the question was not included in the survey that year. *Significant based on chi-square analyses ( p < .05).

solutions will improve these national issues decreased over the years of 2016 to 2018. Although agreement between both groups has increased over the survey years, an unex- pected result was that significantly more pub- lic respondents (37%) than NEHA members (26%) agreed that preventing climate change will lower energy costs. Currently, clean energy is cheaper than fossil fuels (International Renewable Energy Agency, 2022). Public health plays a role in monitoring, evaluating, and supporting the transition to healthier and more sustainable energy sources (McMonagle et al., 2021). Based on this finding, one of NEHA’s priorities should be to provide envi- ronmental public health professionals with education and training on transitioning com- munities to clean energy and the benefits of clean energy to health and well-being. Environmental public health profession- als play a crucial role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. As such, their involvement in this work influences their perceptions on climate change solutions, which can be seen in the findings that show NEHA members strongly agree that urgent solutions (e.g., Green New Deal) need to be rapidly implemented. Moreover, NEHA members were approximately twice as likely as public respondents to prioritize climate action over economic growth and disagree with perceived costs and sacrifices associated with climate change actions. A 2022 poll, however, showed that when the U.S. public was presented with co-benefits of taking cli- mate action (e.g., protection against future

weather disasters), their support for climate action increased (National Public Radio et al., 2022). Our analysis demonstrates that environ- mental public health professionals believe cli- mate change is happening, currently poses a threat to human health, and solutions should be a priority. Environmental public health professionals are rooted in their communi- ties and understand the factors that influence the perceptions of local community members regarding climate change and solutions. Given this knowledge and their role as trusted leaders, environmental public health professionals can leverage their position to communicate the health threats of climate change to the public and provide targeted guidance toward solutions that will prepare communities for climate change and mitigate future negative impacts. NEHA should pro- vide support and actively encourage environ- mental public health professionals to imple- ment adaptation and mitigation solutions for climate change through core environmental public health services and programs such as NEHA’s Climate Health and Adaptation Miti- gation Partnership (CHAMP) program and the Climate for Health Ambassador Training (NEHA, 2023a). CHAMP encourages local jurisdictions to progress toward meeting Healthy People 2030 objectives put forth by the U.S. Depart- ment of Health and Human Services. Further, CHAMP promotes health equity by raising awareness of how climate change-associated environmental public health hazards dispro-

portionately a™ect the health of various com- munities and population groups. CHAMP also helps to promote and expand the use of the Building Resilience Against Climate E™ects (BRACE) framework from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Through continued partnership with ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health Ambassa- dor Training program, NEHA can bolster the capability to build the capacity of the environ- mental public health workforce to be involved in local climate and health conversations. In addition, NEHA should encourage this work- force to facilitate cross-sectoral engagement among community members, the healthcare sector, climate-related policymakers and regu- lators, climate change coalitions, and industry to gain insight and support from these local leaders to mobilize implementation of cli- mate solutions in their communities (NEHA, 2023b). Furthermore, NEHA should share and highlight jurisdictions that have been suc- cessful in these endeavors through webinars and case studies to help other jurisdictions initiate similar e™orts. Limitations for our survey include a small sample size that might not be representative of NEHA membership, a decrease in participa- tion in 2018, and potential self-selection bias. While notable events occurred each year— such as a polarizing presidential election campaign, a national election that used cli- mate change as a focal point, and an increase in media coverage of extreme weather events between 2016 and 2019—we cannot deter- mine if these events a™ected responses.


March 2024 • Journal of Environmental Health

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