Medical Alert! Climate Change is Harming Our Health
From the newly formed Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, this report discusses urgent and compounding public health impacts from climate change. The Consortium is composed of physicians from 11 medical societies, representing over half of the nation’s doctors, who determined a need to share their concern about the health consequences of climate change with the public. The opening summary concludes with this: “In sum, we are sounding the alarm that the ultimate danger of climate change is that it poses a danger to the health of every American now and in the future.”
The report describes three categories of climate change impacts including direct harms such as injuries from extreme weather events, infectious disease, and the effects on mental health. Health harms related to climate change are addressed in detail for the following:
- Extreme Heat
- Extreme Weather
- Air Pollution
- Ticks and Mosquitos
- Contaminated Water
- Contaminated Food
- Threats to Nutrition
- Threats to Mental Health
The section “What We Can Do - Prepare and Prevent” states that the Consortium believes “the most important action we can take to protect our health is to accelerate the inevitable transition to clean renewable energy.” In addition, they mention many actions that can be taken now by different groups - including Doctors, Business Leaders, Public Health professionals, Government Leaders, and All of Us - which refers to knowing your own personalized and localized health risks.
A few stories of severe climate impacts on health are included. For example the fallout from the 2016 “thousand year flood” in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Deemed the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy, 13 people died, the coast guard rescued 30,000 people, and 10,000 people ended up in shelters. Some 180,000 homes and buildings were damaged.)
A public health crisis hit Baton Rouge after the storm. Vulnerable citizens had fled their homes without critical medications; others reported depression and anxiety in the weeks to months that followed; and according to the account in the report (p.7) - long after the storm passed, some teachers reported children who felt so anxious and afraid when it rained that they needed counseling. Also following the storm, pools of standing water became breeding grounds for mold and mosquitoes - and mosquito born illnesses like West Nile Virus, which were already found to occur in the area.
The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health supports making the switch to clean renewable energy, and announced that it will send letters about the health benefits of accelerating the transition to clean energy to the Chairs of the National Governor' Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and members of the Trump administration. This report also will be delivered to members of Congress before being distributed more broadly to state leaders, businesses and medical groups.
The Consortium members are the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, Immunology (AAAAI); American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP); American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); American College of Physicians (ACP); American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM); American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG); American Geriatrics Society; American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA); Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA); National Medical Association (NMA); and the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM). The program office of the Consortium is at the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
Publication Date: March 15, 2017
- Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health
- Air quality
- Air temperature
- Extreme storms and hurricanes
- Heat waves
- Invasive species and pests
- Water quality
The fabulous thing about this resource is that it is simple - it clearly and directly connects the health consequences of climate change to the need for renewable energy. It provides illustrative stories to which most people can relate - i.e. the young football player overheating at practice. However, although there are a good number of end notes, I don't know if enough citations were provided to make this publication useful in workshops or doctor's offices. I think it would be helpful to people who were already most of the way there (believe in climate change) and need something to help them connect the dots. Should probably be provided to all medical students!