UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The latest episode of the “Growing Impact” podcast discusses the importance of providing scientific information to policymakers as society faces climate change and the health challenges that accompany it. The podcast features Elizabeth Long, assistant research professor and the director of research and evaluation for the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative, and Rebecca Bascom, professor of medicine and public health sciences and Health and the Environment Theme lead for Penn State’s Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE). They discuss their project, titled “Promoting Solutions to Climate Change and Health Challenges through Science-Policy Communications.”
The overall goal of the project is to test strategies for increasing policymakers’ electronic engagement with research related to climate change and health, according to Long, the project’s principal investigator.
“If policymakers are to write and influence policies, then they need to be able to understand what the problem is and how we can address that problem as suggested by the research,” Long said. “Policymakers don’t need to be experts, but they do need to have enough understanding to write the most effective policies and not unintentionally write policies that end up doing more harm than good.”
Bascom said climate change is impacting health.
“Helping policymakers to address the huge array of climate-related health problems as climate change accelerates is a very important scientific and practical problem,” Bascom said.
Bascom said some of the health challenges include respiratory allergies and asthma, cardiovascular disease, waterborne infectious agents, malnutrition and diarrheal disease, heat-related illnesses, and mental health impacts.
“Regulators and legislators are going to have a need for information that is purely practical,” Bascom said. “It’s not just ‘is climate science something I should pay attention to?’ but ‘how should these dollars be spent?’ or ‘what are the problems that need to be addressed?’”
Long and Bascom said they and their team are mindful of polarization in society.
“By using neutral, nonpartisan language and focusing on what the research suggests, rather than polarizing issues, we can avoid taking sides and present a menu of effective policy actions,” Long said.
Other investigators on the project include Taylor Scott and Max Crowley, Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative; and Omrana Pasha, City University of New York School of Medicine.
“Growing Impact” is a podcast by the Institutes of Energy and the Environment. It features Penn State researchers who have been awarded IEE seed grants and discusses their foundational work as they further their projects. The podcast is available on multiple platforms, including Apple, Google, Amazon and Spotify.