Connecting climate change and health

Visible sunbeams show the amount of particulates in the air in the kitchens at Bahir Dar University. Wood burning is a danger to women's health, forests and air quality.

Visible sunbeams show the amount of particulates in the air in the kitchens at Bahir Dar University. Wood burning is a danger to women’s health, forests and air quality.


“Current rates of chronic disease (such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity) alongside rising trends in fossil fuel-based energy consumption that causes climate change … present daunting risks to civilization Yet, the interdependence of these challenges affords a golden opportunity to solve both simultaneously.”—GHI Director Jonathan Patz


Health is intimately linked to the environment, and climate change is a game-changer for both. Heat waves, severe storms, droughts, poor air quality, longer and more intense allergy seasons, and the spread of insect vectors for infections such as Lyme disease and dengue fever are only a few of the direct and indirect threats.

The Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is committed to identifying the health risks of climate change and designing practical strategies to protect and promote health and well-being. GHI is also showing how promoting healthy behaviors such as riding bikes or changing diet patterns can reduce the use of fossil fuels, which multiplies the benefits.

Led by Professor Jonathan Patz, an international authority on climate change and health, GHI is a critical link between human medicine, veterinary medicine, public health, and many other researchers at UW-Madison. UW-Madison faculty and staff work to understand and combat the upstream causes of illness. This interdisciplinary work is key to helping communities take practical steps to alleviate the social, economic, and health risks from climate change.

GHI lies at the confluence of basic and applied research and education. The GHI community is helping to reduce air pollution and our carbon footprint, advancing alternatives to fossil fuels, promoting active transportation, designing livable cities, and working toward sustainable policies. We also join the world’s public health and healthcare leaders in a commitment to educate the next generation of professionals to do even more.

  • GHI’s successes include Patz’ work across the world and with the World Health Organization and the United Nations toward healthy, sustainable policies, locally and globally.
  • The UniverCity Alliance, spearheaded by the UW-Madison GHI, Nelson Institute for Environmental Sustainability, Wisconsin Energy Institute and Office of Sustainability, introduces researchers to each other, creating new synergies to benefit communities and their residents. The Alliance initiated UniverCity Year, which pairs academic classes with city needs. Partners have included the City of Monona and Dane County, both in Wisconsin.
  • Postdoctoral researcher Maggie Grabow works with active transportation, and how mindfulness can support sustainable living.
  • GHI collaborators include Engineering Professor Jamie Schauer, a member of the GHI Advisory and a world authority in the causes of air pollution, who uses his tools to address the impacts of pollution on human health, climate change, and sensitive ecosystems.
  • Collaborator and Engineering Professor Giri Venkataramanan, a GHI Advisory member, is developing microgrids that will limit the use of kerosene and provide light into the evenings.

Learn more about the GHI community’s work at the intersection of environment and health: