Many climate-related hazards have affected the health of the Québec population in recent years. For example, in the summer of 2020, massive heat waves resulted in 149 deaths and numerous hospitalizations, while floods in 2017 and 2019 caused significant psychological distress. Lyme disease cases have also continued to rise for more than a decade. These health effects, revealed by several studies, have generated a public health impetus to adapt to and address climate change. The “Assessing Regional Vulnerability to Climate Change and Designing Regional Public Health Climate Adaptation Plans” (VRAC-PARC) project thus aimed to integrate the health dimension of climate change adaptation more systematically at the regional level as well as to promote the capacity and importance of public health actors in adapting to climate change.
The VRAC-PARC project used the public health risk management method, while emphasizing the multi-risk aspect of climatic events, the effects of climate change on health, social determinants of health, and the accumulation of vulnerability. INSPQ provided a framework for participating public health departments to outline the foundations of an assessment, the methods, and the data sources available. The projected probabilities of occurrence for climatic hazards and their potential consequences on health were estimated based on the framework. The projections were then combined in a matrix to assess the overall public health risk. The data came from multiple pathways, including climate portals, censuses, surveys on health status and coping behaviors, and scientific literature and information collected in the field. Collaboration with regional actors was strongly encouraged within the scope of the project to take advantage of local expertise (e.g. adaptability).
As of the spring of 2022, more than 500 regional actors, particularly municipal or community actors, have participated in the efforts of the regional public health authority, DSPublique (Direction et Sante Publique), to carry out their assessment. The comparison of sectors, hazards, and populations according to their level of risk made it possible to better prioritize and target the adaptation measures that must be integrated into the regional plan to optimally reduce health consequences resulting from climate change and pre-existing social inequalities. Furthermore, INSPQ continues to periodically evaluate the project to improve the structure and methods.