“The classic visual representation of climate change is a dramatic video of distant melting glaciers and stranded polar bears,” wrote Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health faculty members Drs. Mary Fox and Tom Burke in a recent commentary. “The public health reality is that the environment is a key determinant of human health, and climate change is now affecting the health and well-being of communities throughout the world.”

Indeed, extreme weather events – from stronger hurricanes to deadlier wildfires – are wreaking havoc across the United States, and they’re only the most visible result of climate change. Communities across the country are also grappling with other consequences like extreme heat, poor air quality, and more frequent incidence of vector-borne diseases. Though climate change and its myriad effects have often been thought of as a future threat, recent news has made clear the need for urgent action.

Most public health directors believe climate change is a serious health challenge, but few reported having the necessary capacity and expertise to respond. 

Now, to help communities prepare for and adapt to a changing climate, Fox and Burke and their colleague Dr. Mary Sheehan, with support from the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, have created a free online course. The course is available to policymakers, practitioners, and anyone with an interest in protecting health as the world warms. 

The course, “Protecting Public Health in a Changing Climate: A Primer for City, Local, and Regional Action,” includes lectures that cover: 

  • Climate science

  • Impacts of climate change on health and well-being

  • Public health tools and assessment frameworks, and 

  • Climate adaptive public health policy and practice.  

The course emphases the importance of effective communication and practical solutions, and features interviews with prominent practitioners and policymakers.

Each module contains two to three hours of recorded content prepared in brief 12-18 minute segments.  

Fox, Burke and Sheehan hope that the course will reach public health practitioners, but no prior public health knowledge is required, so the course is appropriate for general audiences, both in the United States and internationally.  

Visit Coursera to learn more or enroll in the course