Climate change impacts are expected to be more severe in northern Ontario than southern Ontario. Northwestern Canada has experienced greater warming since 1948 – with annual temperatures increasing around 0.4°C in the east and 1.4 °C in the northwest. Along with extreme heat and increased burden of heat-related illness, impacts to air quality will also affect the health of communities in northern Ontario. Northern Ontario is geographically dispersed with more rural and remote communities that have less access to healthcare services. First Nations communities also live in remote, fly-in areas in northern Ontario and are especially at-risk.
As climate change work is relatively new for public health units in northern Ontario, this project involved a collaboration with all seven public units to build capacity and establish the Collaborative. Together, the public health units worked to develop a vulnerability and adaptation (V&A) assessment template and tools useable by each public health unit to understand climate change vulnerability and adaptation from a northern Ontario perspective. This template and tool included a collaborative data framework that provided data on population health indicators related to climate change hazards prevalent in northern Ontario. The framework did not provide data on each municipality because this data would change over time, but the framework was intended to be updated by the public health units as needed. A literature search was also completed in mid-2019 to inform the project, and an adaptation framework was developed that focused on rural and northern settings and identified best practices for climate change and health adaptation. As part of ensuring a health equity perspective in the project, the Collaborative engaged stakeholders from across northern Ontario including Indigenous partners and communities.