GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — According to studies from The Colorado Health Institute and others, our state’s median temperature increased by two degrees Fahrenheit, in just the past 30 years. In response, the Institute enacted “Think globally, Act locally” – a new project that examines climate changes, the impact on Coloradans’ health, and whether the state is prepared to address those health impacts.

Khira Isaacs spoke with officials from the “C-H-I” about a new tool designed to help protect our health — and prevent Colorado from reaching its boiling point.

“We’ve worked on CHI’s Climate and Health portfolio for the better part of the last half decade really making sense of the connection of climate’s impact on the health of Coloradans,” says Senior Policy Analyst, Karam Ahmad.

Ahmad also says climate change can increase the risk of injury, illness and disease, or death. But not all communities or individuals are affected in the same ways — unique circumstances and characteristics all play a role. Currently, Mesa County and other Western Colorado counties rank highest on the list: the five deciding factors being number of extreme heat days, percentage of land with highest wildfire risk, percentage of weeks population experiences drought, percentage of the population who lives in a wildland urban interface and community flooding.

“And when we look at the map right here, looking at our overall risk. We are seeing southern Colorado and southeast Colorado really highlight some of the highest risk. And the reason we are seeing these counties in the category — a lot of it has to do with they have some of the highest rates of poverty in the state. We also saw that they have some of the oldest homes -When it’s very hot out or when there’s poor air quality, our house is where we seek shelter and so an older home is less likely to have insulation or upkept with maintenance and those are very important things when it comes to air quality and the heat,” says Policy Analyst, Chrissy Esposito.

The Health and Climate Index is part of “Acclimate Colorado” — Colorado’s Health Institute’s effort to build capacity, community resilience and an agenda for addressing climate-related health challenges. The tool gives professionals a road map to confront and adapt to environmental and public health threats — it’s a conversation Ahmad says should happen frequently.

“Talking about the exposures and talking about how it impacts people’s health directly,” says Ahmad.

Most Coloradans are aware climate change deeply affects our state’s vegetation and wildlife, but less than half of residents realize their own health is also in jeopardy. Denver foundation President and CEO, Javier Alberto Soto says all Coloradans deserve to be healthy and climate change is a significant barrier to health equity. With this tool, CHI hopes to help create a healthier future.

To view the ArcGis Map, Click here.