Johns Hopkins University: Navigating the nexus of public health and climate change
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Johns Hopkins University: Navigating the nexus of public health and climate change

From the sweltering heatwaves that grip once-temperate cities to the rising sea levels that threaten coastal communities, the health impacts of climate change are no longer distant concerns. Instead, they are knocking insistently at our collective doorstep. Acknowledging their persistence, the World Health Organization is projecting that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are working tirelessly to reduce this estimate.

From the heart of Baltimore, Maryland, they are paving a path toward a healthier, more resilient future. For example, they are investigating how rising heat and humidity help ticks thrive and fuel the spread of diseases. They are uncovering how living near bigger or larger numbers of active unconventional natural gas wells can increase the risk of asthma attacks. They were even recently selected by the US Department of Transportation to innovate climate-focused transportation solutions aimed at preserving the environment — such as the use of alternative fuels like solar and biofuels.

“Climate change should be at the centre of transportation decisions at all levels,” says Assistant Professor Shima Hamidi, who was chosen to be the principal investigator and director of the Centre for Climate-Smart Transportation. “Without comprehensive mitigation and resiliency strategies implemented at all levels of government, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation — and the associated health and quality-of-life impacts of climate change — will only increase in the next two decades.”

Assistant Professor Scot Miller studies these emissions and air pollutants in his lab, the Greenhouse Gas Research Group. They use observations of greenhouse gases collected from aeroplanes, towers, and satellites to estimate emissions across individual states to continents. His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed — recently, Miller was awarded a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award, which is reserved for early-stage scholars with high levels of promise and excellence.

Bloomberg School experts like him can be found in the BREATHE Centre, where the environment’s effects on lung health and specific lung diseases are being investigated; within the Programme on Global Sustainability and Health, which aims to shed light on how human behaviour severely compromises environmental resources; and in the Johns Hopkins University Water Institute, where researchers work to improve the quality and quantity of water required to sustain mankind and the environment.

These are just a few of the spaces helmed by Bloomberg School’s change-making faculty members. Students keen on following in their footsteps are welcome to join the fight by joining one of the several master’s and PhD programmes available at the institution — many of which address the complexities of climate change.

The Master of Public Health (MPH) Concentration in Global Environmental Sustainability and Health is a popular choice for its focus on how various factors — such as land use, transportation patterns and energy systems, energy use, food production and distribution, water use, and population growth — contribute to climate change, ecosystem degradation, species extinctions, and biodiversity losses. Upon completion, graduates can expect to enter the working world with the skills needed to respond effectively to global environmental sustainability.

At the postgraduate level, the Bloomberg School also offers the following:

The School’s commitment to world-bettering excellence extends to the doctoral level as well, with offerings like the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Epidemiology; Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Environmental Health; and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH).

And since complex challenges require interdisciplinary solutions, Bloomberg School collaborates with various departments across the Johns Hopkins University network to afford students the unique opportunity to engage in a truly multidisciplinary programme. Hence why some of these programmes are offered alongside the Whiting School of Engineering.

It’s little wonder why graduates, armed with a skill set that transcends disciplinary confines leave Johns Hopkins University well-positioned to collaborate, innovate, and adapt in the face of adversity. Yinka N. Bode-George is a prime example. The MHS student is now the founder and chief executive officer of Sustain Our Future Foundation, a national philanthropic nonprofit transforming sustainability to maximise community impact and achieve environmental justice.

“Through my studies, I was able to build an environmental health technical analysis while applying my knowledge base through practice experiences in Baltimore City,” she explains. “My coursework and thesis development provided the opportunity to study the intersection between environmental hazard exposure, social inequity, and health outcomes. I now lead my own company and continue to benefit from the relationships and technical skills I gained during my time in the programme.”

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