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Reflecting on the intersection of poverty and climate change

Back to Our Stories

As the United Nations recognized the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty earlier this week, the climate change team at Fraser Health took some time to reflect on what this means for their work and the people living in our region.

Climate change impacts all of us, however, it disproportionately impacts those who are most marginalized in our society – particularly those experiencing poverty and housing insecurity.

Lack of resources, housing, or poor housing conditions, can put residents at risk during increasingly common extreme weather events. Moreover, climate change may exacerbate these issues through housing loss or damage, migration, food insecurity, job loss and other factors.

Many people living in the Fraser Health region experience poverty. In several of our communities, more than one in 10 residents are living below the low income line. Further, up to 47.3 per cent of renters are in unaffordable housing, spending 30 per cent or more of their income on housing and leaving many with difficult decisions to make about spending on non-discretionary items.

This is why we have made equity a core principle in our public health climate change strategy. As part of this, we are actively working with organizations that support people experiencing poverty and/or other systemic barriers to health. Some of our work to-date has included:

  • Engaging with communities and non-profits to incorporate lived experience into our HealthADAPT climate vulnerability assessment and strategic framework.
  • Creating a primer full of resources for organizations that support people experiencing poverty or homelessness during extreme heat.
  • Creating partnerships with the Homelessness Services Association and other non-profits to provide climate change-related health recommendations.
  • Providing seasonal readiness recommendations to local governments, and advocating that they consider the issue of equity in their planning.
  • Meeting with departments across Fraser Health to discuss how equity can be incorporated into patient care.
  • As health care professionals, we can support patients and residents who are most vulnerable by understanding the issues surrounding poverty and climate change and by ensuring they are aware of the supports that are available to them.

The World Health Organization and health organizations around the world have said that climate change is the biggest health threat of our time; they have also said it is our biggest opportunity to build more equitable communities. This is the work we will continue to take action on and build into our goals for a more equitable and resilient health region for everyone.

Learn more about the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Want to learn more about climate change and sustainability in BC health care? Visit for more information.

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Submitted by Public Health Consultant Darryl Quantz and Policy Analyst Amy Lubik, Population and Public Health

Originally posted on the Beat, used with permission from Fraser Health.