Underwood Strengthens Climate and Health Protection Act to Help Communities Prepare for Climate Change Consequences

June 16, 2021
Press Release
Legislation would help mitigate the harmful public health effects of climate change

WASHINGTON— Today, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) introduced the Climate and Health Protection Act to strengthen the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Climate and Health Program. This program was established to help state and local governments prepare for the public health consequences of climate change by translating climate science for health professionals, developing decision support tools for local leaders, and providing grants and technical assistance for projects to improve preparation and resilience. The Trump Administration undermined the Climate and Health Program by repeatedly proposing to eliminate its funding. Underwood's legislation would permanently codify the core functions of the Climate and Health Program and authorize increased funding for its critical work to protect communities across the country.   

"Climate change threatens food security, worsens air pollution, and intensifies natural disasters—it’s a public health crisis. That's why the CDC’s leadership, exemplified by the Climate and Health Program, is an essential part of America’s climate strategy," said Underwood. "I'm leading the Climate and Health Protection Act to make sure local public health leaders have access to the data, expertise, and resources they need to protect their communities from the health impacts of climate change."  

The Climate and Health Protection Act would:  

  • Amend the Public Health Service Act to explicitly authorize the Climate and Health Program;  

  • Preserve the Program’s integrity for years to come by codifying its core functions in law;  

  • And authorize $110 million in annual appropriations and prohibit the transfer of funds or reprogramming.  

In Congress, Underwood has worked to increase access to actionable information on climate change. In June 2020, Underwood's Climate and Health Protection Act was included in the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis's comprehensive congressional climate action framework. The framework highlighted Underwood's proposal to strengthen national public health planning by strengthening the CDC’s Climate and Health Program, an important tool in communities' response to the climate crisis.  


The Climate and Health Protection Act is supported by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the League of Conservation Voters.  


"The science is clear—climate change is happening now and it is already impacting public health. These impacts are disproportionately felt by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other communities of color, as well as low-income communities. In the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing everyday how important it is that science be clearly communicated so that states, local health departments, and communities have access to the information they need to protect themselves. UCS supports Rep. Underwood's bill to rejuvenate the CDC's Climate and Health Program," said Allison Cain, Washington Representative, Center for Science and Democracy 


"The climate crisis is imposing ever more urgent, complex, and costly health harms on the United States. But even as the crisis intensifies, the CDC's Climate and Health Program is the only federal help of its kind for state, local, and tribal public health agencies. Our underfunded and overworked public health workers need assurance of continued support from the CDC—especially as the resource-intensive fight against COVID-19 rages on," said Juanita Constible, Senior Climate and Health Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council.   


"The health impacts of climate change pose a challenge in many ways in communities across the country today and in the coming years without swift action. It is critical that the public health community is prepared to adequately address the challenge of climate change. As we've witnessed with the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of investment in public health infrastructure can severely limit our country's ability to respond to public health threats. Robust funding and a fully functioning CDC Climate and Health Program are vital to ensuring that states and communities have the tools and resources to prepare and protect human health in the face of climate change," said Dr. Lisa Campbell, Chair, Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations.   


"As we continue to experience the health impacts associated with climate change, our communities need to find ways to be resilient in the face of these persistent dangers. The Climate and Health Program within the CDC was an important tool to help communities find options to address the health risks posed by unchecked greenhouse gas emissions; we need to recreate that important effort to help our kids and our communities. While it is imperative that we begin searching for long term solutions for the climate crisis, additional resources to meet today's needs are absolutely critical. We greatly appreciate Representative Underwood's efforts to support the communities feeling the sting of climate change most directly," said Elizabeth Gore, Environmental Defense Fund Action Senior Vice President, Political Affairs.  


“Almost daily we are seeing climate change-fueled catastrophes across the country, and they are harming low-income communities and communities of color first and worst. And climate change poses grave threats to public health beyond the flooding, storms, and wildfires, too: increased number of bad air days, heat stress and stroke, worsening allergies, ubiquitous Lyme disease, and new vector-borne diseases, among others. LCV applauds Rep. Underwood for introducing this bill to reestablish the Climate and Health Program at CDC so that states and communities have support in protecting the health of their residents from this growing threat,” said Matthew H. Davis, MPH, Legislative Director, League of Conservation Voters.