Fulbright Award takes Patz to Ethiopia

August 19, 2014

A Fulbright Scholar grant will take Dr. Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute (GHI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to Ethiopia to work on issues involving livable cities, climate change and health during the spring semester of his 2014-2015 sabbatical. 

He will spend the fall and winter in Geneva, Switzerland, where he will hold joint appointments with the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies and the University of Geneva. He will also work with the World Health Organization (WHO) on climate and health issues. 

“This is a key year
for climate change
issues. My 20 years in
studying health effects
of climate change will be
immediately put to use.”

“The timing is incredible,” says Patz, who also holds joint appointments in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the School of Medicine and Public Health. “This is a key year for climate change issues. My 20 years in studying health effects of climate change will be immediately put to use.”

In Geneva, Patz' work will focus on the cross-sector benefits of a low-carbon economy, as he teaches and works with WHO in advance of the 2015 United Nations meetings in Paris to negotiate new climate treaties among the world’s nations. The Paris treaties will replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Patz begins his sabbatical with a WHO summit on climate change and health in Geneva, and then returns to New York, where he is co-lead for the Sept. 22 “Action in Climate Change and Health,” a recognized side event to the United Nations Climate Summit in New York. UW-Madison’s GHI, Nelson Institute, Office of Sustainability and Wisconsin Energy Institute are co-hosting organizations for the event that will bring international leaders together to address the impacts of climate change on health.

“Public health is central to the climate change issues, not only because of the risks but for the opportunities a low-carbon economy presents,” Patz says. Those opportunities include designing livable cities, promoting active transport and reducing air pollution, all of which benefit the environment and health. 

In Ethiopia, Patz will work with Bahir Dar University’s master’s in public health program, teaching courses on climate change and health. He and Jason Vargo, an assistant scientist with GHI and the Nelson Institute, will continue their work on healthy urban design, especially addressing issues of active transport and physical fitness.

“Public health is central
to climate change issues,
not only because of the
risks but for the opportunities
a low-carbon economy
presents.”

Ethiopia is unique in its commitment to a climate resilient, green economy, Patz says. He will meet with government officials to help advance the initiative.

Patz also will visit several other Ethiopian projects that involve partners from across the UW-Madison campus. Those projects are varied and include developing microgrids for rural electricity, reducing air pollution and improving health care and medical education.

“UW-Madison recognizes the importance of working and collaborating at the global level,” Patz says. “My sabbatical is an opportunity to engage in global environmental health policy at the international level and in the developing world where some of our greatest opportunities may lie as cities develop and infrastructure is built. Effort there can have huge payoffs down the road as far as sustainable public health.”

This story was originally published on the UW-Madison Global Health Institute website.