Case Synopsis

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and extreme temperatures (heat and cold) in Southern Ontario. Climate change-related impacts (i.e., flooding, heat, storms, tornados, etc.) may increase the risk of heat-related illness, respiratory disease, food-, water-, and vector-borne disease, and injuries in the Middlesex- London community. The Ontario Public Health Standards mandate local public health units to increase awareness of environmental health hazards, to prevent or reduce exposure to health hazards, and to work to create healthy environments. The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) conducts surveillance for vector-borne disease, disseminates heat warnings to community partners, and prepares for emergency planning in the community. The MLHU has identified a need to increase communication and awareness of climate change-related health impacts in the rural population of Middlesex County, focusing on extreme heat. There is currently no strategy in place for reaching the rural population with heat-related health messaging. To fill this gap, the health unit needs a comprehensive communication strategy targeted at the rural population.

Case Objectives

  1. Develop clear goals and/or objectives for a health communication strategy.
  2. Analyze the differences between urban and rural areas with respect to the communication channels available, barriers or enablers to receiving information, and access to healthrelated services.
  3. Apply course tools and theories to develop effective strategies, appropriately segment an audience, and demonstrate the ability to develop targeted messaging.
  4. Recognize the challenges associated with communicating information on a complex topic.

Case Study Questions

  1. What are some of the health effects associated with climate change? Who is most at risk?
    a. Are there potential opportunities associated with climate change? For who?
  2. What needs to be considered when developing communication strategies for rural populations? Describe differences between urban and rural areas with respect to communication channels and vulnerabilities.
    a. What are some barriers to communicating climate change science?
    b. Are there barriers to communicating with rural populations?
    c. Describe strengths of rural communities that could be used when developing communication strategies.
  3. What health promotion model(s) or theories could be applied in developing a competitive communications strategy?
  4. How might community partnerships assist with message dissemination and what are some challenges that exist when collaborating across sectors?


communication strategy, climate change, rural health, community engagement, knowledge translation, adaptation

Additional Author Information

Jaelyn Kloepfer, BSc, MPH

Fatih Sekercioglu, MSc, MBA, PhD, Manager, Safe Water, Rabies and Vector Borne Disease

Amardeep Thind, MD, PhD, Professor



Recommended Citation

Kloepfer, J., Sekercioglu, F., Thind, A. (2018). Local Climate Change Adaptation: Developing a Communication Strategy for Rural Populations. in: McKinley, G. & Sibbald, S.L. [eds] Western Public Health Casebook 2018. London, ON: Public Health Casebook Publishing.