In 2019, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH), Office of Epidemiology – Climate and Health Program, in collaboration with the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) applied and were selected to work together on the project “Energy Insecurity and Public Health: Going Further Through Cross-Sector Collaboration.”
Why was Maricopa County selected?
- Maricopa County Department of Public Health has a robust heat surveillance database that includes indoor deaths and air conditioning status.
- Maricopa County Department of Public Health has a long-standing partnership with the Bridging Climate Change and Public Health Coalition (BCCPH).
- Phoenix is the hottest city in the United States and heatwaves are the leading cause of extreme-weather related deaths in the country.
Arizona Team, 2019 Cohort 4
Our story begins in December 2018 when Diana Hernandez, Assistant Professor at Columbia University and an expert in energy insecurity, housing, and health, contacted our Program Manager, Kate Goodin, related to a WBUR story on the connection between Air Conditioning shut-offs and heat-related deaths in Maricopa County. Vjollca Berisha, Sr., Epidemiologist at MCDPH and an expert on Heat Surveillance and Climate and Health, was shortly invited to the conversation. Subsequently, the conversation was expanded to include Lauren Ross, Senior Director of Policy at American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and an expert on Energy and Policy.
Even though we had only met virtually and we were geographically distributed, the ideas we had about climate, energy insecurity, and their impact on health, concerns for health equity connected us, and we decided to pursue an opportunity from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) - The 2019 Interdisciplinary Research Leaders call for applications. Through weekly conversations and sharing of information, we built our case for a project centered on energy, climate, equity, social justice, and vulnerability titled “Energy Insecurity and Public Health: Going Further through stakeholder collaboration.”
The focus of the project is on community development and health, and it has a strong community engagement component. With a focus on Maricopa County communities, we bring together stakeholders; empower community members/residents; connect each other in the community and create long-standing partnerships focusing on equity and health. This approach is strongly aligned with the central theme of our initial proposal: by taking action as a community, we can improve the living status and change the culture of health.
Currently, the Maricopa County Energy Insecurity Workgroup, comprised of members from different sectors including governmental agencies, utilities, academia, community based organizations, and others lead actions in space of energy insecurity.
Diana Hernandez, PhD,
Assistant Professor in the Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University
Social and environmental determinants of health; energy insecurity; housing and built environment; poverty, inequality, health disparities; community engaged research; social/public health entrepreneurship
Lauren Ross, PhD,
Director of Local Policy at the ACEEE
Cities and climate action, equity; clean energy and affordable housing
Vjollca Berisha, MD, MPH,
Sr. Epidemiologist, Office of Epidemiology, Climate and Health Program at Maricopa County Department of Public Health
Communicable heat surveillance program, Climate and Health program, Bridging Climate Change and Public Health Coalition, community engagement and community empowerment