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A new alliance will catalogue climate health disparities in vulnerable Florida communities

A new initiative is researching how climate change affects the health of vulnerable people in coastal and rural communities across the country, and Florida will be part of the study.
A new initiative is researching how climate change affects the health of vulnerable people in coastal and rural communities across the country, and Florida will be part of the study.

A new initiative is researching how climate change affects the health of vulnerable people in coastal and rural communities across the country, and Florida will be part of the study.

“Low-income communities, communities of color, rural communities and tribal and indigenous communities suffer the most” from climate change, according to a press release from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Severe storms cause injuries and increased stress that sometimes leads to substance abuse or mental health conditions. Flooding creates contamination many families cannot escape. Warmer air and water temperatures create challenges for those that rely on production agriculture as a primary source of income or food for their family.”

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The Southeast and Caribbean Climate Alliance formed earlier this year to address these issues. It's made up of Sea Grant programs from Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and also the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

LaToya J. O'Neal, an assistant professor and health and wellness specialist at the UF/IFAS Extension, is a part of this new group. She said they'll bring stakeholders together to find out how extreme weather events contribute to health disparities and health inequities.

"The stakeholder engagement and feedback is going to be critical to us being able to develop solutions and decide what programs and what outreach opportunities make sense to advance health equity," she said.

Stakeholders include health officials, climate scientists, city planners, and community leaders, among many others.

O’Neal will help facilitate the discussions, that she hopes will lead to trust and consensus-building in order to develop solutions.

"Some of the long-term goals will involve communicating our findings to the public," she said.

The team is in the planning stages right now, but the year-long research project is funded by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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