Hernandez: Three Lessons from Miami-Dade County on Improving Climate Resilience and Health Equity
Climate warriors have many faces. Such as the tanned faces of outdoor workers who demand life-saving protection in extreme heat. The face of a tired doctor on the streets of Miami providing triage to homeless people during a natural disaster. And the faces of organizers working with communities on housing and energy affordability issues.
While I was on a Miami-Dade County learning tour focused on climate, heat, and health equity hosted by Catalyst Miami, Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, and Grantmakers in Health, I was inspired by these climate change warriors. I was able to meet many and hear their stories. Part of the 2022 Grantmakers in Health Annual Conference, the tour will stop around Miami-Dade County to see how community members are increasing climate resilience and health equity in low-income areas of the county. It was something to hear.
The GIH conference comes a month after Gov. DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” into law banning public school teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. will be held in June 2022. And just days before the conference, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling, removing the country’s longstanding constitutional right to abortion for women.
With these devastating legislative actions in mind, the theme that resonated with me most during the conference was that a broken political system is the greatest threat to public health. Globalization is exacerbating ongoing public health threats such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. The drastic reduction of rights we have seen through the Roe v. Wade overthrow is terrifying and highlights the reality that this country’s polarization is having serious consequences for the real health of Americans.
There are myriad reasons to be discouraged about the political situation in this country. But I decided to consider what is possible by looking back at the wisdom and stories of climate warriors on what it takes to win.
Below, I outline three lessons I learned during my visit to Miami-Dade, as well as questions in the area of philanthropy.
Lesson #1: Long Term Strategy Wins
Extreme heat threatens the health and well-being of Miami-Dade residents and kills more people each year than any other weather-related disaster nationwide. We have organized and built ecosystems and political power to address the growing threat of climate change. They developed long-term strategies and built powerful coalitions to achieve victory. One clear victory is that after years of organizing local government officials and persuading them to devote resources to climate resilience, Miami-Dade County became the world’s first Chief Thermal Officer. It has become a city with a status. Thermal officers are tasked with raising awareness of heat and supporting actions to protect vulnerable populations.
question 1: How can foundations and progressive groups work together on long-term strategies that advance climate change and health equity goals beyond the funding cycle?
Lesson #2 Using the lens of health works
Que Calor is a worker-led campaign to ensure protection for outdoor workers working in extreme heat in Miami-Dade County. Outdoor workers are sensitive to heat and need water, shade and rest to prevent heatstroke and heatstroke. The Que Calor Campaign supports Bill SB 732, introduced by Republican Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez. If passed, the bill will guarantee worker protection and require employers to attend annual training to prevent heat stroke. SB 732 uses the health frame to highlight the power to promote protection for workers coping with extreme heat exacerbated by climate change.
Question 2: How can foundations adopt a health framework to successfully tackle climate change?
Lesson #3 Accompaniment is Key
The Dade County Street Response Clinic has a street medical team and doctors stationed throughout the city to serve the poor and uninhabited. Doctors serve Miami-Dade’s most vulnerable by providing free medical services, providing post-natural disaster relief, and building trust. The provider accompanies the patient and is fully present throughout the patient’s humanity. The ability to demonstrate the full humanity of humans is key to advancing meaningful climate change efforts.
Questions 3 and 4: How people in the philanthropic sector are fully present across humanity in the communities they serve, and how philanthropy further adapts their grant and investment practices to prevent unintended harm to communities. Can it be ruled out?
A big thank you to the speakers and organizers of the Miami-Dade County Learning Tour. I invite you to be present with the lessons and questions prompted by my visit, and also with these reflections.