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Boiling Down Warming Temperatures

Philadelphia skyline on a hot summer evening


January 22, 2018

Weather changes, such as the unseasonably high temperatures in Philadelphia this fall, can have serious impacts on health, says Drexel’s Ali Kenner, PhD, assistant professor of political science and of science, technology and society — especially for senior citizens, who are at higher risk for climate-related health complications.

As the director of Drexel’s Philadelphia Health and Environment Ethnography Lab (PHEEL), Kenner co-hosted a series of workshops this summer called “Staying Cool in a Changing Climate.” Held in local libraries and senior centers, the workshops offered tips for making homes more energy efficient, and provided basic information on climate change and its effects on health.

“Seniors can be more vulnerable to climate change impacts in a variety of ways,” says Kenner. “These vulnerabilities may be related to existing health conditions, mobility limitations or access to fewer resources to cope with extreme weather events, like heat waves. In our workshops, we try to provide a range of in-home strategies and local resources that can help folks get through the height of summer.”

The workshop series is part of Kenner’s broader research on environmental health problems. She has studied asthma care across the United States for the last eight years and has more recently focused on the community health impacts of scrapyards and transportation infrastructure in Philadelphia. Her current project on climate change and home environments investigates community understanding of climate change and health through educational workshops that prompt a dialogue between citizens, local organizations and Drexel researchers.

Kenner has organized these workshops for the last four years in collaboration with the Clean Air Council, Energy Coordinating Agency, Liberty Lutheran and National Nurse-Led Care Consortium, with funding from the Franklin Institute’s Climate and Urban Systems Partnership. This is the first year they’ve been joined by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in explicitly making the connection between excessive heat and health complications.

“We’re fortunate to be working with the PDPH team on this project. They’ve added layers of public health expertise and resources to the workshops,” says Kenner. “The hope is that the data we’re collecting can be useful to PDPH as they continue building public health infrastructure that responds to climate change.”

For upcoming workshops, resources and project findings, visit pheel.info.