Climate change is altering our environment and, subsequently, our health. From increased rates of seasonal allergies and asthma to expanding the reach of vector-borne diseases, the warming world has an inevitable bearing on the medical community as it reacts to its effected patient population. This is why, as a health provider, it’s critical to stay abreast of climate's impacts on health. We’ve compiled a list of some key ways you can brush up on the latest information.
- Know the facts. Before aiming to expand your knowledge on climate health, make sure you can recite the most critical information. If you can commit these facts to memory, you’re more likely to use them in climate communications. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a good overview of the chief health concerns caused by climate change.
- Read the White House’s scientific assessment on the impacts of climate change on human health. In April 2016, the United States Global Change Research Program released a new assessment of a growing public health threat, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. This report builds on decades of climate change science and broadens our understanding of associated health impacts by providing a more definitive description of climate-related health burdens in the United States.
- Follow the leaders. While we cannot give credit to all the medical practitioners involved in climate solutions across the nation, highlighting the individuals in our leadership circle is a good place to start. From doctors and nurses to mental health and public health professionals, these folks have been working diligently to heighten climate discourse amongst their peers and engage their institutions in taking on clean energy initiatives. Take note of their efforts and partnerships, and don’t be afraid to reach out to those who work in your field.
- Keep track of who sets the pace. In May, Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest integrated health system, announced ambitious environmental targets for the year 2025 that include becoming carbon positive, buying only sustainably produced food and sending zero waste to landfills. With leaders like Kathy Gerwig raising the bar, it’s no wonder Kaiser is setting the pace for health care institutions to uphold competitive environmental goals. Read more about Kaiser Permanente’s Environmental Stewardship program here.
- Keep an eye on our twitter feed. News aggregators like Climate Nexus and Environmental Health news certainly serve a good purpose, but Climate for Health is the only provider that hones in on news specific to the health impacts of climate change within the United States. We do all the searching and sorting for you. You can find us at @Climate4Health.
- Attend the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting this fall. Climate for Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health will be working together to run a Learning Institute pertaining to the overlaps between climate change and human health. Register here.
- Take note of the overlapping issues. Discussions on topics such as sustainable food, environmental health, fossil fuels, food waste, nuclear energy and environmental justice (to name only a few) are often interconnected through values. A healthy climate is one that addresses many of these issues and recognizes how each of them have a significant impact on the health of various patient populations. Take a moment to search Twitter for hashtags including #climatehealth, #environmentalhealth and #sustainblefood and you’ll see what we mean.
- Be social. There are many ways to brush up on the latest information, but let’s face it – none are as effective as learning directly from someone you know and trust. You can do this by sparking conversation with your colleagues at the lunch table, setting an official time to meet with a knowledgeable peer, or engaging with someone in your field on social media. Whichever way you choose to connect, make sure you get to asking the questions you care to have answered. There’s no time to waste.
Anna Linakis Baker, Writer and Social Media Manager for Climate for Health, has worked in the field of environmental health for over 15 years. She graduated from Georgetown University with a major in creative writing and has a Master of Public Health from Boston University. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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