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Introducing The Drexel Climate Change and Urban Health Research Center

Photo of Drexel Campus to accompany blog post about the Drexel Climate Change and Urban Health Center

November 7, 2023

This week, the U.S. Government released the Fifth National Climate Assessment: an interagency report that details the country’s climate change related risks and provides scientific evidence to aid mitigation and adaptation strategies. Cities are a particular focus of the report. Not only are urban areas the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, but they are expected to continue to grow in size and population.

Within urban environments, the risk of climate hazards can vary. Historically disenfranchised neighborhoods will face extreme temperatures, flooding, and poor air quality. But while cities present climate challenges, they also present opportunities for action. Protecting people who live in cities will require efforts at all government levels, and public health research will be needed to plan and implement these efforts. This is our focus at the UHC.

In recognition of our past and future work on this multi-pronged problem, we received a multi-million dollar grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to establish the Drexel Climate Change and Urban Health Research Center (CCUH). The CCUH will support research to help protect the growing urban populations of the world from the adverse health and equity effects of climate change.

The new Center includes a research project as well as a research capacity building core and a community engagement core. The research project will examine inequities in the effects of extreme heat in cities in the U.S. and Latin America. The heat island effect in cities contributes to high levels of excess deaths, and developing effective climate adaptation strategies will depend on understanding how these outcomes vary within cities and are linked to social inequities. The capacity building core will lead and implement as set of activities to support further development of research capacity in climate change and urban health at Drexel and at our partners institutions. The community engagement core will work with urban policy makers in the U.S. and Latin America to obtain input on key questions for the future and disseminate results in ways that are most useful and impactful.

While the CCUH will be based in at Drexel University in Philadelphia, it will include three additional Research Centers at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil, and the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama in Guatemala, as well as build on an existing network of 13 institutions in the U.S. and Latin America.

This robust existing infrastructure will enable the UHC to expand our urban health and health equity work and build our capacity to generate solutions-oriented evidence on the impacts of climate change on health in cities. We will also translate that evidence into action in partnership with communities and policymakers for maximum impact. The ultimate goal of the CCUH is to become a center of excellence on climate change and urban health with a strong equity focus, global reach, and meaningful engagement.

Learn more about climate change initiatives at the Urban Health Collaborative