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Depoliticizing And Humanizing Climate Change Through A Public Health Frame: A Case Study Of Ontario’s Climate Change Policy Discourse

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posted on 20.12.2021, 18:05 by Luckrezia Awuor
The relevance of a public health frame in supporting the climate change impact awareness and consensus on actions is well recognized but largely underutilized. Overall, supporting public health’s capacity in climate change has focused on projecting and highlighting public health impacts due to climate change, identifying public health policy responses, and emphasizing public health role. The integration of the public health perspective in the discussion and communication of climate change ideas has remained elusive.
Climate change is also a complex social problem whose construction of meaning and actions is rooted in institutionalized language, discourse, and human interactions. Thus, understanding of the construction of the relevance of public health in climate change discourse is central to understanding the impediments of the public health frame application. Unfortunately, this has been a neglected area of research, and the dissertation responded to that gap.
To delineate the impediments of the public health frame, the study used the case study of the context of climate change policy discourse in the Province of Ontario (Canada) to examine the construction of public health relevance, the extent of public health frame application, and the systematic influences in the discourse.
The analysis of policy documents and key informant interviews revealed that the public health frame remained isolated from the primary focus of Ontario’s climate change policy discourse. Instead, Ontario’s historically and socially constructed climate change as an economic and political issue solved through market strategies and technological innovations forwarded by political, bureaucratic, and technological elites. The focus substantiated the types of structures and processes of policies and decisions, the relevant actors and knowledge, and the values supporting the discursive, normative, and strategic practices. Ontario’s focus also limited the utilization of the public health frame and the supporting capacities through the misalignment between public health and the provincial strategic actions, the lack of recognition and integration of public health roles, mandate and structures, and limited public health capacity building initiatives.
Therefore, public health framing as an endpoint of climate change discourse requires legitimation of public health in the underlying institutional structures for, and governance of, climate change.





Doctor of Philosophy


Environmental Applied Science and Management

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Eric Liberda Richard Meldrum