Senior Epidemiologist, Department of Public Health, Maricopa County, AZ
Department of Public Health
- Senior Epidemiologist, Department of Public Health, Maricopa County, AZ
Dr. Vjollca Berisha is a senior epidemiologist at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH), Office of Epidemiology, where she currently oversees the Heat Surveillance program, Climate and Health projects, Infant Safe Sleep and Homeless projects. During her professional career, Dr. Berisha has worked for state and local governments in the U.S. and internationally as an epidemiologist and subject matter expert on various communicable diseases and environmental surveillance programs. Her work was always focused on using surveillance health data and connecting with community members to improve public health.
In 2014, Dr. Berisha led Cooling Centers Evaluation in Maricopa County in collaboration with community partners. The objective of this collaboration was to assess cooling centers on the basis of their operations, services, costs, utilization, capacity, accessibility, communication strategies and population served. In addition in 2015, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health was selected by the Public Health Institute to join The Climate Change and Public Health Learning Collaborative for Urban Health Departments and received financial support to incorporate climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience work into local public health department program practice. As part of this collaborative Homebound Study was completed. The Homebound study was designed and led by Dr. Berisha and her team in collaboration with community partners with the goal to better understand barriers to using home cooling systems and existing community services during heat events by homebound individuals.
Currently Vjollca and her team coordinate and convene the Bridging Climate Change and Public Health Partnership in Maricopa County. This partnership has been established in 2016 and works on initiatives that empower, engage and inspire a healthy community in the face of growing environmental factors such as extreme heat, flooding, drought, wildfires, dust storms and poor air quality events. Today, the group is working to implement five priorities from the 2017 Bridging Climate Change and Public Health Strategic Plan. This includes the Climate and Health Champion program lead by Dr. Berisha, which honors those taking steps toward implementing sustainable solutions, practices or policies that improve health or health equity associated with climate-sensitive hazards.
The team, which includes Vjollca and two other researcher, from Columbia University and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), were selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) program to work on the project “Energy insecurity and Public Health: Going Further through Cross Sector Collaboration”. Project will take place in Maricopa County, Phoenix Arizona and will end in September of 2022. Project is about: Energy, Climate, Health, Equity, Social Justice, Vulnerability and overarching goal is to improve culture of health among vulnerable communities.
Berisha, V., D. M. Hondula, M. Roach, J. R. White, B. McKinney, D. Bentz, A. Mohamed, J. Uebelherr and K. Goodin. 2017. Assessing adaptation strategies for extreme heat: A public health evaluation of cooling centers in Maricopa County, Arizona. Weather, Climate, and Society 9(1):71-81. DOI: 10.1175/WCAS-D-16-0033.1. (link )