06/15/2021 02:12 p.m. EST
The East Shore District Health Department (ESDHD) recently announced its Climate Change Project and is seeking feedback from residents in the towns served, including East Haven, Branford, and North Branford. Barbara Naclerio, health educator at ESDHD, and Heather Soroko are collecting responses from the public via www.surveymonkey.com/r/ESDHDclimate.
“We feel story sharing will be important in the impact it has on people who hear the stories as people could say, ‘That could be me,’ and it really brings home the realities of these changes that are happening around them,” said Naclerio. “We really want people to start having conversations about climate change.”
The project will ask residents how they have been affected by climate change and how climate change has affected their property. It will also explore the impact of heat events, hurricanes, and storms, as well as how climate change has affected asthma, allergies, and the impact of insects such as ticks and mosquitos.
“We hope to create an awareness that climate change affects many of us in ways that are not so obvious, such as asthma and allergy rates, increased vector diseases such as West Nile virus, EEE [eastern equine encephalitis], and tickborne diseases as well as the obvious changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels, and increase in invasive species,” said Naclerio. “We are hoping to match up data and history, ecologically and health-wise. People’s stories will be critical in setting the timeline of these events.”
Once the information is collected, the goal is to compile the stories and the research that has been done in health and the environment over the past three decades. Naclerio hopes to create a documentary or pieces of a documentary to promote the impact of climate change.
“Climate change is not something that a small health department in a small state like Connecticut will solve; however, we can increase awareness and influence people and communities in decisions and regulations,” said Naclerio. “We want to help the community prepare and build their resilience to these changes brought about by climate change.”
While the collection of stories and experiences of residents has only just began, ESDHD has been working on the project for the past five years. There are already several initiatives that have already been completed including a Branford community survey in 2017 to determine what people knew about climate change and what they were doing about it and a follow-up presentation at the Willoughby Wallace Library, the initiation of the Solar Pump-out Boat in 2018-’9), and putting electric charging stations in at the health department and purchasing electric and hybrid cars for ESDHD.
ESDHD also collaborates with the Yale School of Public Health on research and works with interns from Yale and the University of New Haven and a fellow from the New England Health Association (NEHA).
When it comes to how individuals can help make an impact on climate change, in addition to sharing their stories, Naclerio recommends that people remain aware of their environment and how their health is affected.
Residents should also have a “to-go” bag prepared in the event that extreme weather or other events force evacuation or a need to shelter at home. The “to-go” bag should include items such as water, non-perishable foods, medications, batteries, and flashlights. People should also create a plan with their family of where they will meet and to have a contact with a person to let them know they are all right. For more information, visit www.esdhd.org.
At the local level, each town has been creating town planning that addresses flood plain areas and evacuation routes in the event of high water, which Naclerio said “is a good start but tells only part of the story.”
“We hope people reach out to us,” said Naclerio. “We will also reach out to local environmental groups, such as Save the Sound, and area experts in forestry, marine biology, and geography. I would also like to reach people who make a living that is impacted by these climatic changes.”
For information, email Heather Soroko at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Barbara Naclerio at 203-481-4233 ext. 569.