In this opinion piece in STAT, a national publication committed to topics and scientific discoveries in health and medicine, authors Gary Yohe, PhD, professor of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University, and Kristi Ebi, PhD, professor of global health and environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington, discuss the necessity of the health professional voice in discussions about climate change. In the face of federal climate policy inaction, Yohe and Ebi encourage health professionals to become part of the national conversation by communicating with their professional networks and patients and calling for regulations and policies promoting the public’s health.
“By continuing their own education on the growing climate-related health risks, by keeping up with current literature and current events and by tracking climate-related health issues in their own offices, they can educate themselves and their patients about their personal climate-related risks…” – Gary Yohe and Kristi Ebi
Climate for Health is following Yohe and Ebi's example by empowering the health professional voice at the institutional level. We are working with associations such as the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association to build public support and political will for climate solutions through the unique cache of trust held for health professionals by the American public. A primary component of our work, fulfilling our commitment to "start with people", is to bring disparate groups together to determine how we can best inspire the tens of millions of Americans whom we engage, treat, and serve, in counties and communities across the nation, on climate change.
Each fall, ecoAmerica hosts our marquee event, the American Climate Leadership Summit, the nation’s largest gathering of leaders to broaden and activate climate leadership and galvanize support for solutions. This year's theme, Taking Up the Mantle, expects to draw over 350 leaders from the health, faith, and local communities sectors, and includes breakout sessions for each sector as well. Our health forum, in particular, features select participants, such as moderator Georges Benjamin, MD, Executive Director, American Public Health Association, and speakers Jack Ende, MD, President, American College of Physicians; Fan Tait, MD, Chief Medical Officer, American Academy of Pediatrics; Anabell Castro Thompson, President, National Association of Hispanic Nurses; and Jim Whitehead, CEO, American College of Sports Medicine. Together, these health leaders represent thousands of health professionals nationwide who possess tremendous power to move the needle on national climate policy and action.
While Yohe and Ebi call on health professionals to speak up and out, our partnerships with the organizations represented at the Summit show both the potential that the health community has to inspire public action and the progress that is already being made. For example, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has designated 2017 as the Year of Climate Change and Health. APHA has designated each month a different theme in relation to the intersection of climate and health and through our partnership, among other activities, we have created a fact sheet and webinar series highlighting these impacts. Last fall, through support from Climate for Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) hosted a symposium on children's health and climate change. And together with the American Psychological Association, earlier this year Climate for Health and ecoAmerica produced Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance highlighting the impacts of climate change for mental health and wellbeing. Through these tools and our partnerships Climate for Health is part of a network of health professionals and institutions accelerating leadership on climate action.
"The combined medical community can play a pivotal role in opposing efforts to dismiss or ignore the value of rigorous climate-change science. Speaking up against climate denial isn’t just scientifically accurate. It is essential for promoting and protecting the health of all Americans, today and in the future." - Gary Yohe and Kristi Ebi
The American Climate Leadership Summit is a tremendous opportunity to continue our work of empowering leaders and amplifying the health professional voice on climate solutions. As we come together this October at the Summit, we will take up the mantle and heed Yohe and Ebi's call to pursue our responsibility of promoting the public's health in the face of the health impacts of climate change. Please visit here for more information about the American Climate Leadership Summit.
Tim Kelly is the Climate for Health Program Manager at ecoAmerica. He has over six years of experience working within the health sector conducting outreach and education on the impacts of environment on our health. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim at [email protected]
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