Public health responses to wildfire smoke events
The public health response to wildfire smoke events is complex, involving inter-sectoral collaboration, community engagement and the use of many sources of information in decision-making. The focus of this project is to understand the perceptions, challenges and needs of public health practitioners in Canada when responding to wildfire smoke events. The project was undertaken as part of the Research, surveillance, and public health practice: Activities to build and strengthen the Canadian response to forest fire smoke events agreement between The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) and Health Canada’s Water, Air and Climate Change Bureau between April 2016 and March 2018. This project fulfils the agreement’s objective to evaluate public health performance around wildfire smoke events and is intended to contribute to the Canadian public health system’s capacity to respond to future wildfire smoke events by understanding Canadian experiences and evolving practice in preparing for and managing recent wildfire smoke events in British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick , and the Northwest Territories.
Findings from interviews with 26 public health practitioners are presented in nine sections reflecting common themes that emerged across all four jurisdictions. Public health practitioners in the context of this report refers to Medical Health Officers, emergency and disaster management teams, environmental health officers, community physicians, health service managers and air quality specialists who have been involved in a public health response to wildfire smoke. Unless otherwise cited, the findings in the thematic sections come directly from the series of interviews conducted for this project and are representative of interviewees experiences only. When exemplary practices were identified in a particular jurisdiction, they have been included in this report as a means of sharing the experience of others in addressing common issues. Tools or resources that were recommended have been included for reference in the appropriate section. Thirteen issues emerged as relevant for further consideration and development of responses to wildfire smoke across jurisdictions and are presented below as public health priorities.