An increasing number of nurses and doctors around the country understand the overlaps between climate change and public health. As nurse Jan VanRiper, director of the Institute of Health and Humanities, articulates so well in her article below, working toward climate solutions is the equivalent of prescribing a healthy life for our communities, our families and ourselves. From asthma cases to nutrient deficiencies to diarrheal illnesses, the rise in global temperatures even by a degree or two is causing health problems. To this end, we ought to be asking ourselves if people should leave their doctor's offices with a prescription for environmental action. And, as Ms. VanRiper says, "Yes, maybe you should leave the clinic with a prescription to recycle. But before we get to needing a prescription for a gas mask, there are some things you can do. First, get educated. Learn the facts about climate change and what can be done about it. A good way to do this is to join one of the many groups concerned about climate change." Climate for Health is happy to serve as one of them.
By Jan VanRiper I March 14, 2016
When you last visited your physician did she prescribe a recycling container for your home? Or did your nurse suggest you vote for candidates who favor mandatory reductions to greenhouse gases?
No? Why not? “Climate change is a medical emergency,” according to Hugh Montgomery, co-chair of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change. How so?
For those of us who have experienced the smokier skies around Missoula in recent summers, the health impacts are pretty obvious. Small children, the elderly and others with impaired lungs and hearts are the first to suffer. Montana’s fire season is 78 days longer with six times as many acres burned as in the 1970s. If that isn’t bad enough, consider a few of the other health implications of a fast-warming earth.
Tiny solid and liquid particulate matter produced mostly by human activities increase the moisture content and temperature of the earth and its atmosphere. The result is more frequent and severe weather patterns – like heat waves, terrible storms and drought – affecting the air we breathe, our food sources and a host of other environmental conditions. If anything can smack you upside the head and convince you that we are earthly organisms dependent on the health of our surrounding environment, it’s a bite from a mosquito carrying the dengue virus – right here in the U.S. of A., courtesy of rising temperatures. Malaria, anyone? Soon you won’t need to go south to find a willing mosquito. Just take a stroll outside your door. Courtesy of what scientists call “vector-borne diseases” creeping northward.
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