Public Health Services
Climate Change and Health

Welcome to Climate Change and Health website of the Public Health Services (PHS) department, in the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. This website provides a history of climate change and public health work conducted by the department of PHS, current climate and public health efforts, partnership activities, and additional climate and public health resources. 


Climate change and extreme weather affect public health in San Diego County in a variety of ways (see Figure 1). In addition, it poses direct threats to human health and exacerbates health conditions. Therefore, the department of Public Health Services (PHS), in the County of San Diego (County) Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), partners with the community (e.g., community collaboratives, Resident Leadership Academy); local, tribal, and state governments; local universities; and community-based organizations to ensure hazard mitigation planning, climate action planning, General Plan development (e.g., safety element, environmental justice element) to consider population health and the impacts of climate change on human health. Public Health is affected by decisions related to land use, housing, transportation, air filtration, indoor air quality, and indoor temperatures, as well as access to air conditioning, placement of cooling centers, and response to excessive heat events and wildfires. These partnerships ensure public health is included in preparedness and response efforts that affect the health of San Diego County residents. 

Figure 1. Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health.

Source: California Department of Public Health, Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, J. Patz.



What is the Problem?

plane flying over wildfire

San Diego County residents have already experienced the effects of extreme weather and climate change, such as warmer temperatures, increased nighttime temperatures, increased humidity, shifts in rainfall patterns (e.g., flash floods), appearance of new mosquitoes (e.g., Aedes Aegypti) known to transmit vector-borne diseases such as Zika virus, and extreme events such as droughts and wildfires.Local climate and health scientists predict these changing climate conditions to continue over the coming years, exacerbating public health concerns such as chronic conditions like asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health issues, while creating new threats to public health. As both chronic environmental stressors and acute natural events are expected to happen more frequently and more intensely, people will be confronted with intensification of existing health problems, and potentially more natural disasters and threats such as heat waves, wildfires, new and emergent vectors of disease. 

Who is at Risk?

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Due to existing health inequities and individual susceptibilities to environmental risks, people from various groups, including older adults, children, pregnant people, people with pre-existing health conditions, low-income communities, communities experiencing social and/or linguistic isolation, and communities of color will be more susceptible to the impacts of extreme weather and the results of a changing climate. 

What Is Public Health Services Doing?

Therefore, effective climate change efforts, like all essential public health services, including preparedness and response, must be looked at through an equity lens. Working with partners in the County of San Diego’s Land Use and Environment Group (LUEG), the County’s Vector Control Program (LUEG Department of Environmental Health and Quality (DEHQ)), Office of Emergency Services (OES), the Air Pollution Control District and others is an opportunity to improve population-wide health and advance equity over the short, medium and long term, particularly for chronic health conditions.


In 2015, PHS created the Office of Heath Equity, hired its first Health Equity Program Coordinator, published its first ever Health Equity Plan (2015-2020). A PHS Health Equity Working Group was formed, which now includes climate change and public health in its Charter. As of Fall 2021, the PHS Office of Health Equity name was changed to the Office of Health Equity and Climate Change.


The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has funded the Building Resiliency to the Effects of Climate Change (BRACE) program, which has provided funding to some state and local jurisdictions to perform work in this area. In California, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Office of Health Equity has been a long-standing recipient of federal BRACE Program funding. This funding supports the CDPH California Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (CalBRACE) Project. Since 2015, CalBRACE has provided technical assistance to the Office of Health Equity and Climate Change of the Public Health Services, in the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. The BRACE Framework facilitates the process for climate change work in public health jurisdictions. This process includes five-steps, as shown in Figure 2:

  • Step 1: Anticipate Climate Impacts and Assessing Vulnerabilities.
  • Step 2: Project the Disease Burden
  • Step 3: Assess Public Health Interventions
  • Step 4: Develop and Implement a Climate Change and Health Adaptation Plan
  • Step 5: Evaluate Impact and Improve Quality of Activities

With CalBRACE funding, PHS conducted a staff survey which determined the need for training and a Climate Change 101 was developed. All staff in the department are required to take this training and are encouraged to seek opportunities to improve health outcomes for residents with awareness of these environmental health concerns (e.g., excessive heat and air quality). 

Figure 2. BRACE Framework.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

PHS collaborated with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on a Vulnerability Assessment for San Diego County, a local Profile Report describing threats, risks and vulnerabilities, a presentation on the vulnerabilities to climate change unique to San Diego County residents, and a template for an Adaptation Plan. Experts from CDPH presented to public health leaders and provided a workshop to PHS Epidemiologists on the State’s Climate Change & Health Vulnerability Indicators for California (CCHVIz) data. 

Partnering for Collective Impact

PHS has taken steps to work with additional state, local, and regional partners to continuously refine and describe a local narrative on the potential public health impacts of climate change and extreme weather, and to develop a public health and climate change adaptation plan and a series of white papers on key health and climate topics (e.g., excessive heat). PHS has provided over a dozen workshops to local collaboratives, Live Well partners at the Live Well Advance, community-based organizations, the Resident Leadership Academy, and others. PHS has partnered with the County’s Office of Emergency Services on the Hazard Mitigation Plan, the County’s General Plan (i.e., Vulnerability Assessment, Environmental Justice, and Safety Sections), and the County’s Climate Action Plan. PHS has provided input to the State on the General Plan Guidelines and legislation on climate, equity, and health. PHS partners with the County’s Department of Environmental Health and Quality on a variety of topics, including the Vector Control Program for tracking and reporting potential vector borne diseases. PHS hosts a vector borne disease conference annually with partners in government and academia on both sides of the border.

In 2023, PHS partnered with the Executive Office of LUEG on community convenings in the 5 supervisorial districts around the Regional Decarbonization Framework and the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change. PHS is currently implementing its first Adaptation Plan and developing a Climate Change and Public Health Policy and Procedure which will be mandatory reading for all PHS staff. 

Vision, Mission, Goal

people gardening

Our Vision

A future where San Diego County residents can be safe from the impacts of extreme weather and the effects of changing climate.

Our Mission

Mitigation of the adverse impacts of climate change and extreme weather on population health for San Diego County residents.

PHS Climate Change and Health Goal

To promote awareness of the public health impacts of extreme weather and the effects of a changing climate in San Diego County. 

These efforts are aligned to the County of San Diego Strategic Plan and the Health and Human Services Agency Strategic Plan.

PHS Timeline

Figure 3. PHS Climate Change and Health Timeline.

Source: Public Health Services, Office of Health Equity and Climate Change, 2023. See text version of PHS Climate Change and Health Timeline.

Current PHS Climate Change and Health Efforts


Public Health Services Climate Change and Health Efforts
Fiscal Year 2023-2024

Efforts planned for FY 2023-24 include: 

  • Ensure all new staff receive the mandatory Climate Change 101 training.
  • Finalize and promote series of white papers on the public health impacts of climate change in San Diego County.
  • Continue to implement the PHS Adaptation Plan.
  • Develop fliers on health equity and climate topics in collaboration with San Diego State University (SDSU) Research Foundation through the HealthLINK grant.
  • Continue collaboration with University of California San Diego (UCSD), SDSU, University of San Diego (USD), and others to advance and promote research on the public health impacts of climate change.
  • Promote the results of the collaborative effort between LUEG Planning and Development Services, HHSA, Desert Research Institute and the National Weather Service on communicating with community about the impacts of excessive heat.
  • Participate on the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative.
  • Continue to collaborate with LUEG on the Regional Decarbonization Framework effort including additional convenings for community participation.
  • Continued partnership on Partner Relay effort including additional workshops for communities.
  • Host bi-monthly meeting with local and state partners on public health and climate.
  • Provide input to the Regional Report for the 5th Assessment led by UCSD.
  • Participate in the Health & Human Services Agency Sustainability Task Force and implement, track and report on PHS sustainability goals.
  • Work with LUEG on the Environmental Justice Implementation Plan (part of the County of San Diego’s General Plan).
  • Provide workshops and presentations on the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change to community organizations, residents, and stakeholders.

Climate Change Definitions


Adaptation: Taking action to prepare for and adjust to both the current and projected impacts of climate change. (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2022). 

Climate Change: A change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Article 1; 1992). 

Global Warming: Long-term heating of Earth's surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth's atmosphere. This term is not interchangeable with the term "climate change." (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2023). 

Greenhouse Gases: Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and certain synthetic chemicals (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2023). 

Mitigation: Actions limiting the magnitude and rate of future climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and/or advancing nature-based solutions (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2022).

Resilience: The capacity of a community, business, or natural environment to prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from a disruption (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, 2021).

Public Health and Climate Change Partners

Figure 4. Partners in Public Health and Climate Change: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resiliency in San Diego County.

Source: Public Health Services, Office of Health Equity and Climate Change, 2023.

Strategic Plans

The County of San Diego Strategic Plan provides a framework for the County to set measurable goals. The County has prioritized climate, resiliency, health equity, environmental justice, safety, and community engagement. PHS Climate Change and Health efforts support these strategic priorities, aim to break down silos, and connect different organizations within the County leading on these priority areas. 

The 2022-24 HHSA Strategic Plan was first published in 2022 and aligns to the County’s Strategic Plan. It was developed using the Agency Playbook, a five-step process in alignment with the County of San Diego Strategic Initiatives, the GMS, and HHSA Vision, Mission, and Values. One of the six Agency Strategic Initiatives is Sustainability: Promote a resilient economy, climate, environment and region for all. 

Climate Change Resources

Local and Regional Resources

State Resources

National and Federal Resources

Global Resources




PHS Climate Change and Health Timeline