Jiayi (Angela) Wan
The health impacts of climate change have been an understated part of the climate change discussion."
It’s no secret that low-income communities are hit disproportionately harder by the effects of climate change. Fresno County, Calif., is no exception, where with widespread poverty comes extreme heat and air pollution. Struck by disparities in heat related illness, Angela Wan (MS/MHSA '16) and colleague Valerie Tran (MUP/MPH ’15) joined forces – and multidisciplinary skillsets – on a solution. With support from Health Care Without Harm, an environmental health and justice nonprofit organization, the pair created Nurses for Cool and Healthy Homes (NCHH), which trains home care nurses to assess the heat risk of their patients’ living environments.
“The health impacts of climate change have been an understated part of the climate change discussion,” Wan said. “With 3 million nurses in the country, to get them to understand that they have the ability to speak on climate change through a health lens without asking them to be experts on this topic is really powerful.”
The NCHH toolkit Wan and Tran built includes video training for the nurses, a home environmental assessment checklist, a heat-related illness fact sheet, client-oriented tips on how to stay cool, and resources for energy assistance programs. NCHH has been adopted by the Fresno County Department of Public Health, with nurses conducting home environmental assessments for each new client. The nurses evaluate the client’s vulnerability to extreme heat, share passive cooling strategies, and connect them with resources like home energy improvements and utility assistance.
Wan is now a senior project manager at City of Hope, a Los Angeles area cancer center, supporting food and environmental operations. As a student, she pursued dual degrees at SEAS and the School of Public Health, and graduated in 2016. The following year, she presented at the 2017 American Public Health Association conference about her work to enhance public health nurses’ role in helping communities be resilient in the face of extreme heat given climate change.
“The entire healthcare industry has a lot to gain from understanding the environment that we live in, not just our physical surroundings, but the resources we use to operate,” Wan said.