CHI identifies climate-related health risks for Colorado counties 


Boram Kim


During a Thursday presentation on its 2022 Health and Climate Index, the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) discussed how climate change is impacting the health of Coloradans in different ways, depending on geography and socioeconomic factors.


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Based on data from 2017-2021, the index analyzed the risks Colorado counties face due to climate change in four areas: exposure to climate-related hazards, social factors that have been linked to climate vulnerability, health outcomes and access, and plans and perceptions related to climate change and health.

According to CHI, counties on the Western Slope are most likely to be impacted by climate hazards because of the region’s drought and wildfire risk. Meanwhile, counties in southeastern Colorado were at most risk for health and social impacts related to climate due to the area’s prevalence of poverty. 

“Factors such as age, income, education, language, cognitive and physical difficulties, all those are evidence-based to be connected to climate vulnerability,” said Chrissy Esposito, Policy Analyst at CHI. “We’re seeing southern Colorado and southeast Colorado really highlight some of the highest risks, and the reasons that we’re seeing these counties in that category is that they have some of the highest rates of poverty in the state. We also saw that they have some of the oldest homes … An older home is less likely to have insulation or [upkeep] with maintenance. Those are very important things when it comes to air quality and heating for extreme cold days.”

In its report Think Globally, Adapt Locally, CHI said that many of the counties where people are at the highest risk are also the least prepared for the health impacts of climate change. The organization said the index can help local communities assess their risk levels and plan accordingly to address health impacts at the policy level. 

Acclimate Colorado, CHI’s efforts to guide climate-related health policy around the CDC’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework, provides an architecture for developing and implementing evidence-based strategies to adapt to a changing climate.

Acclimate Colorado aims to prevent or minimize the harmful effects of climate change and prevent or reduce health disparities.