Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 439–452 | Cite as

Population Health Adaptation Approaches to the Increasing Severity and Frequency of Weather-Related Disasters Resulting From our Changing Climate: A Literature Review and Application to Charleston, South Carolina

  • Jennifer RunkleEmail author
  • Erik R. Svendsen
  • Mark Hamann
  • Richard K. Kwok
  • John Pearce
Global Environmental Health and Sustainability (W Al-Delaimy, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Global Environmental Health and Sustainability


Purpose of Review

Recent changes in our planetary climate have and will continue to challenge historical knowledge and risk assumptions for weather-related disasters. While the public health community is rapidly working to develop epidemiological approaches and tools to mitigate and adapt to these weather-related disasters, recent high-profile events have exposed gaps in knowledge and response efforts. Limited work has been done to assess the climate readiness of the local public health and healthcare community as it pertains to local response planning and adaptation measures in the event of a weather-related disaster. The purpose of this paper is to review the existing literature related to climate change, weather-related disasters, and population health approaches to adapt to climate-related changes in weather-related disasters at the local level. We highlight a brief case study to illustrate an example of a local approach to adaptation planning in a coastal community.

Recent Findings

Few studies have put forth quantitative disaster epidemiology tools to aid public health officials in preparing for and responding to these weather-related disaster events. There is a general lack of understanding within the public health community about the epidemiological tools which are available to assist local communities in their preparation for, response to, and recovery from weather-related disasters.


Cities around the nation are already working to assess their vulnerability and resilience to weather-related disasters by including climate change in emergency preparedness plans and developing adaptation strategies, as well as equipping local hospitals, health departments and other critical public health systems with climate information. But more work is needed and public health funding is lagging to support local and state-level efforts in preparing for and adapting to weather-related disasters in the context of a changing climate. Our population health disaster preparedness programs need to be adapted to address the increasing risks to local public health resulting from our changing climate.


Climate change Weather-related disasters Public health Adaptation Healthcare system resiliency 



We would like to thank William Clark, an intern with the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites—North Carolina, for his flooding scenario analysis of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. This study was funded in part by the Intramural Program of the NIH, National Institute of Environmental Sciences (ZO1 ES 102945).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

J.R., E.R.S., M.H., R.K.K., and J.P. declare no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Runkle
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Erik R. Svendsen
    • 3
  • Mark Hamann
    • 4
  • Richard K. Kwok
    • 5
  • John Pearce
    • 3
  1. 1.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites-North Carolina (CICS-NC) at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)North Carolina State UniversityAshevilleUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Health Department of Public Health SciencesMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical SciencesMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  5. 5.Epidemiology BranchNational Institute of Environmental Health SciencesResearch Triangle ParkUSA

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