Climate as a Voting Issue, Part 1: September American Climate Perspectives Survey

This election season has been filled with reports showing the widening partisan divide in America. Opinion gaps are growing on topics such as poor and disadvantaged communities, the size of government, corporations, military, immigration or other key social issues. Climate change has been no stranger to partisanship. So, how does the topic of climate change fare in America today? Is the issue as divisive as people seem to think it is?

This month, ecoAmerica’s American Climate Perspectives Survey begins to answers these questions in the first of a two-part series called Climate as a Voting Issue. Here are a few key highlights from the survey:

 

  • 90% of Americans think Democrats and Republicans should work together on climate solutions. A vast majority of Americans, including 96% of Democrats, 90% of Independents and 83% of Republicans believe this.
  • Independents are siding with Democrats in disapproval of environmental rollbacks of the Trump administration. A majority of Americans (62%) disapprove of the rollbacks, including 64% of Independents and 86% of Democrats.
  • Americans Are More Concerned About Climate Change Today than in Past Elections. ecoAmerica found that more than three in five Americans (63%) report feeling more concerned about climate change now than in previous elections.

Find, read and download the full report HERE.

And, return next month for Part 2 of the Climate as a Voting Issue series. In October, we will cover American awareness and attitudes on candidates’ climate stance, and whether or not they intend to vote for candidates that support climate change solutions.

And, for helpful guides on talking about climate change in your community, check ecoAmerica’s ongoing Talking Points series, where we make Starting The Conversation, discussing Clean Energy, connecting Climate and Caring for Our Children, and conversing about Climate in your Community easy and effective!

 

Climate change and the built environment: it’s time to make changes

Louisiana is known as a sportsman’s paradise, Florida is vacationland and, as we all know, everything is bigger in Texas.

Unfortunately, that can be a problem, as some of the things that have been bigger lately have threatened vacation spots, sportsman’s favorite escapes, and residents in all three states; as well as the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere in and around the Gulf of Mexico.

 

 

 

What is the cause of this destruction? Climate change.

 

As the global temperature rises, so too do tides; water levels; heat indexes; fire risks; hurricane velocity, ferocity, and frequency; and other elements of natural life that can have an enormous impact on both the natural and the built environment. Extreme weather conditions and their destructive fallout can also negatively impact people’s physical, emotional, and psychological health.

Noted psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that shelter is among humanity’s most pressing and vital needs. What happens, then, if even this basic necessity is threatened by forces that are beyond humanity’s control, but not within its ability to respond to them?

As many scientists are already claiming that we have crossed the climatic Rubicon and cannot stop climate change, we need to focus more attention on where we can preserve the existing built environment, while mitigating the additional impacts that climate change is bringing.

Among the steps that we can take, to preserve the built environment, are:

  • Advocate for local building codes in flood-prone areas to have increased freeboard requirements, like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has required in its newest building code;
  • Retrofit building roofs with simple additions as hurricane clips, even in areas where high winds have not yet posed a regular threat, as is now required for all new construction through model building codes across the country;
  • Install tension connectors between existing porches, decks, and the framing of residential dwellings, as national model codes have required since 2009;
  • Retrofit existing drainage infrastructure to minimize the potential damage from water events;
  • Encourage the use of alternative energy sources for infrastructure, home, commercial energy, and transportation as in jurisdictional energy conservation codes for new construction in California, Washington, DC, and Massachusetts;
  • Recommend all new buildings comply with a “green” standard (e.g., LEED, IgCC, EnergyStar, HERS) for both energy efficiency and building materials, as they are currently being required in states and jurisdictions across the nation;
  • Utilize more private and public land/property as bases for solar arrays and wind farms through the application of eminent domain principles that have happened throughout the east and west coasts of the U.S.;
  • Advocate for legislatures to adopt new policies and protocols that recognize, address, and respond to the impacts of climate change and humanity’s role in it; similar to the Massachusetts and California legislation requiring meaningful study and action planning for mitigating the effects of climate change.

By making simple changes today, and planning for and encouraging more changes in the future, we may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done, but we can minimize and mitigate any future challenges and extend our lifespan, both as a generation and as a species.

 

What’s the best way to make the connection between extreme weather and climate change? ecoAmerica’s August Talking Points can help.  Download yours today. 

Felix I. Zemel, MCP, MPH, DrPH(c), CBO, RS, DAAS, Principal, Pracademic Solutions is the National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) Climate Change Committee Co-Chair.  NEHA is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here

 

Climate Change Can Bring Us Together: 5 Simple Rules for Climate Advocacy

Everywhere we turn it seems we bump up against something political. The news we watch, the athletes we support and even the restaurants where we eat are all increasingly viewed through the lens of partisan politics. Climate change has been viewed similarly, but we have an opportunity to bridge the divide.

When it comes to trying to engage climate skeptics, too many scientists and advocates fall into the trap of debating the science — believing that just one more fact, one more chart, one more anecdote about the causes and consequences of climate change will persuade them. Alas, this approach falls short.

 

So for those who care about climate change, about creating happier and healthier communities, what is there to do?

Based on our research, we came up with 5 simple rules for climate advocacy in an era of intense political polarization. This guidance will help you feel more comfortable speaking to issues all Americans care about, while avoiding nasty debates that go nowhere.


1. Lead by Example: People are inspired when they see others taking action. Show them that climate action can come with a spectrum of benefits. Carpool, bike more often, or switch to hybrid or electric vehicles to decrease climate pollution while increasing health and dollars in the bank. There are a number of local, state, and federal programs that help lower the cost of all electric vehicles. Switch to clean energy. Weatherize. Vote. There are dozens of solutions that are accessible, affordable, and immediately beneficial.

2. Be Human, Relevant, Positive, Supportive, and Solutions Oriented: The goal of climate advocacy is to inspire others to take action. Connect with people personally, and highlight shared values and common ground. Inspire them to care by being positive, supportive, and solutions oriented. Listen as much as you speak.

3. Stick to the Basics: When it comes to climate advocacy — keep it simple and clear. We have everything we need to stop damaging the climate. Clean energy is cheaper and more available than ever. It creates good-paying jobs for Americans, saves money for families, and helps maintain cleaner, greener neighborhoods. These Clean Energy Talking Points are readily-usable, and Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans offers deeper guidance for message personalization.

4. Location Matters: When you’re talking about climate, start local. Talk about how climate and pollution affects family and friends, neighborhood, work environment, and community. People care about what affects them and their loved ones directly. Equally, if not more important, is to communicate the local benefits of solutions. Americans need to know that climate solutions benefit their health, strengthen their community, and can put more money in their pocket.

5. Offer Concrete Action to Solve the Problem: Know what you are asking for when you engage others. If you are discussing clean energy with your congregation, have a plan for action. If you’re discussing sustainable transportation, improving energy use, or water conservation with your neighbors, provide a resource that empowers them to take the action you are seeking.


The fact is, most of us are surrounded by opportunities to cut waste, save money, and benefit our communities in almost everything we do. Improving our lives and strengthening our communities — while also making a difference on climate change — is one of the few big things we can do accomplish in little steps everyday.

The more we talk about climate change with our friends, families, co-workers and communities, the more comfortable it becomes. To help you get started, ecoAmerica offers the latest research on how to talk to people about climate change, and what to do to be part of the solution. Check out these guides and start to lead on climate in your community: Climate Talking Points, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans, 15 Steps, and our Moving Forward Guide.

 

Are Americans Connecting Severe Weather to Climate Change?

Throughout the country, Americans are noticing something different about the weather. The seasons feel warmer, wildfires seem worse, and floods and hurricanes are more severe.

But when they turn on the news or pick up their newspapers, there is little mention of climate change. There is talk of more intense wildfires coupled with historic droughts and dry conditions, but silence about why. Reporters discuss never-before-seen damage from hurricanes, freakish fire tornados, record breaking temperatures, and increasingly severe storms — but do not mention what is fueling them.

 

While the media fail to link our changing climate with extreme weather, scientists are quick to draw the connection. But how do Americans understand this relationship? Are they connecting the dots?

To find out, ecoAmerica surveyed a national sample of Americans to identify if and how they connect the weather outside their window to climate change. The following are highlights of the findings. The full report is HERE.


1. Americans who notice severe weather are more likely to attribute it to climate change.

These results were most pronounced when Americans experience heat waves (80%). A majority connected an increase in severity of wildfires (75%), floods (73%), hurricanes (69%) and tornados (66%) to climate change.

2. Women and Democrats are more likely than other groups to notice weather and correlate it to climate change.

For all of the five types of weather events included in the survey, noticing severe weather, and attributing it to climate change approached or were in majority levels. However, there were notable partisan and gender variations — with women and Democrats by far the most likely to notice more severe weather, and attribute it to a changing climate.

3. Americans see shared responsibility for preparing for extreme weather and climate changeWhile a majority of

Americans feel prepared for a changing climate and more extreme weather, only half are confident that their community is ready. Climate action is about communities — the health and safety of families and friends, and Americans think both local and national leaders bear responsibility.

4. There is a wide range of emotions about severe weather events.

People don’t just notice the effects of a changing climate, we experience emotional responses — especially when we hear about how climate is causing others their lives and livelihoods. While some Americans feel hopeless (11%) when they hear these stories, nearly twice as many feel motivated to help (20%).


While the media isn’t making the connection between extreme weather events and climate change, Americans are beginning to make that connection on their own. However, there is room to grow to help key constituencies make the connection, and this starts with communication.

For many, starting this conversation can be a difficult first step to take. To help, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series this month offers some quick, simple ways to get the conversation about Extreme Weather and Climate Change going, and to jumpstart climate action in your community.

Find out more by viewing the full report HERE. Also, check out our Talking Points Series to learn the best ways to talk about climate change with family, friends, and in your community.

Extreme Weather and Climate Change: Talking Points

Whether Americans are looking out their windows, or turning on the local news, we are increasingly confronted by severe weather events — unprecedented droughts, storms, floods and heatwaves are being seen and felt nationwide and around the world. The impact of this “new normal” is changing our lives. Destruction of property from ferocious weather, threats to health and safety, and increased costs to cool homes and workplaces are all realities now facing every American.

But for many, questions about the connection between climate change and extreme weather remain. Can we really attribute every weather event to climate change? Is there anything we can do?

While scientists are now able to more accurately make the connection between single extreme weather events and climate change, we don’t seem to be able to rely on our news to make this connection for the rest of us.

To help, ecoAmerica has dedicated our August 2018 Talking Points to making the connection between extreme weather and climate, titled The New Normal: Changing Seasons, Changing Lives.

Communicating about the connection between a warming world and the weather should begin and end personally and locally, within communities, and with what Americans can see with their own eyes. It must be empowering and include positive, benefits-oriented actions we can all take to participate in the solution. These talking points will help!

Let’s not wait for a better time to have this conversation – now is that better time. With these talking points, you will be able to have productive conversations, and make the weather and climate connection, friends and family, colleagues, coworkers, and others in your community.

And, take a look at prior talking points to help you open the climate conversation, talk about clean energy, discuss the impacts on and the need for solutions for the sake of our children, and communicate with community, faith, and health professionals. Stay tuned for our next talking points, which will publish in October.

 

Public Health Impacts of Extreme Weather Associated with Climate Change

Nurses approach health from a holistic and comprehensive viewpoint. That holistic view of health is foundational to advocacy work I do as a member of several nursing and public health associations. Although climate change (CC) truly is a global challenge, my efforts focus primarily on national and state levels through my involvement with the nursing and professional organizations such as the Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN) and the Ohio Public Health Association (OPHA). My recent work with 10 other public health professionals, in an OPHA CC coalition developing a climate adaptation plan, highlights the need to identify state and community level vulnerabilities to climate threats and to develop adaptation and resilience plans to prepare for climate-related weather extremes to prevent harm to human health and the environment.

 

Our group focused on adaptation and resilience and followed the CDC’s BRACE (Building Resilience Against Climate Effects) model to develop a white paper on CC-related health effects that Ohio’s local health departments are likely to face in their constituent communities. The coalition first identified populations across Ohio at increased risk for adverse CC-related health effects and disease burdens, and then asked local public health professionals to respond to a survey about CC-related health threats and impacts in their jurisdictions. Health threats were rated across three dimensions: short-term impacts, long-term impacts, and socio-economic impacts. Extreme weather events, such as thunderstorms, flooding, and heat were noted to have impacts in all three dimensions and drought in the long-term and socio-economic dimensions. Thunderstorms were the top short-term threat (75% of respondents); flooding was the top socio-economic threat (almost 88% of respondents). The paper addresses health equity and identifies populations in Ohio that are likely to be at increased risk of adverse health and socio-economic effects associated with climate-related events including extreme weather events.

 

As the atmosphere becomes warmer and moister, more powerful and frequent thunderstorms occur that increase the threats of flooding and power outages due to large and sudden outpourings of rain. Flooding from prolonged or excessive rain contribute to adverse health effects due to standing water, water contamination, increased mold, electrocution or drowning, and agricultural damage or disruption that contributes to food insecurity, loss of productivity, higher food prices, and financial impact on persons in the agriculture industry.

 

More frequent extreme heat events exacerbate many chronic illnesses and worsen air quality and drought conditions. Drought contributes to health effects indirectly through long-term and socio-economic impacts such as altered vector patterns, food insecurity, worsened air quality, wildfires; and agricultural damage, costs of food and water, and job loss, respectively.

 

With these health impacts in mind, the white paper discusses CC adaptation in the context of public health accreditation and presents examples of adaptation and resilience areas to address organized under the 10 Essential Public Health Services. The paper includes a list and brief descriptions of resources for public health interventions to address climate-related health and socio-economic effects.

 

Public health nurses have an integral part in assisting with disaster preparedness, response, and care during the recovery phase follow extreme weather events. Outlining this role, APHN has a position paper titled “The Role of the Public Health Nurse in Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.” This paper provides guidance on how public health nurses can engage and participate in disaster planning, preparedness, and response within their communities or practice settings.

 

Adaptation and community resilience are also dependent on an informed, committed, and actively engaged community. Stand up for your community – get involved as a nurse to help preserve, protect, and promote health and to prevent illness related to extreme weather events and other effects of CC. Learn about what CC-related events are likely threats to your community and what is being done to mitigate the health effects of these events. Exercise your rights as a citizen and your ethical obligation as a professional nurse to advocate for health in your community.

 

The Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN) is a member of the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health, a partnership between Climate for Health and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). Rosemary Valedes Chaudry represents APHN on the Nursing Collaborative. ANHE is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

Three Takeaways on Nuclear Power Survey

Within the climate community, one of the greatest areas of debate is the role of nuclear energy in the mix of climate solutions. Nuclear power already accounts for nearly 20% of America’s power supply, and there are growing voices of support for researching, developing, and building greater nuclear power capacity as part of a broader strategy for mitigating the causes of a changing climate. However, the topic is controversial.

Calls for growth are meeting stiff resistance. Questions about whether the risks of nuclear power outweigh the opportunities; whether it’s “clean” or “green”; or whether it is a necessity given the urgency of the climate challenge fill the debate.

It’s no wonder then that the public, too, has an uncertain perspective on whether nuclear energy, old or new, is a path that they support moving forward. To better understand where the American public stands on nuclear energy, ecoAmerica conducted our American Climate Perspective Survey in July, which sheds light on this issue:

  • Nuclear Power vs. “New” Nuclear Technology: While less than half of Americans support existing nuclear power (49%), they are more in favor of innovations in new nuclear technologies (73%).
  • Persistent Concerns: Americans are still very concerned about the risks of nuclear power. Concerns remain about waste (84%), health and safety (81%), and weaponization (73%). While there are some differences in how Democrats and Republicans, men and women think about these risks — a strong majority remain concerned.
  • A Consensus of Support for Renewables: One of the persistent findings of ecoAmerica and other research is that a strong majority of Americans, of all stripes, support renewable energy, like wind and solar.

The findings of the American Climate Perspective Survey show that concern about nuclear power readily exceeds support. What remains true is that there is robust and lasting support from across the aisle for renewable energy.

To learn more about the of results of the survey, view it HERE. And be sure to follow our Talking Points series, where we provide quick, simple, and effective tips and tricks about translating climate perspectives into climate action!

 

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July is Climate Change & Children’s Health Month

ecoAmerica and Climate for Health are joining the Children’s Environmental Health Network to put #ChildrenAtTheCenter. In January, CEHN launched a monthly education-to-action series as part of the Children’s Environmental Health Movement.  The origin of the CEH Movement, which also includes the celebration of Children’s Environmental Health Day on the second Thursday in October, is included in A Blueprint for Protecting Children’s Environmental Health: An Urgent Call to Action

 

 


#ChildrenAtTheCenter Goals:

  • Increase awareness and understanding of children’s environmental health among key audiences

  • Mobilize action on children’s environmental health issues

  • Establish/expand the community and network of partners working on children’s environmental health issues


July is Children’s Health and Climate Change Month.  Learn more about children’s unique vulnerabilities to climate change through our blog on CEHN’s website; ecoAmerica’s June Talking Points: Caring for Our Climate and Our Children; and the factsheet and recorded webinar, “Climate Changes Children’s Health,” created by the American Public Health Association, ecoAmerica, Climate for Health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children are at risk from more frequent and intense storms, the spread of vector-borne illnesses, and extreme temperatures.  Fortunately, by acting now, we have the power to address climate change, and to protect the well-being of our children at the same time. Stay engaged by signing up for the Climate for Health newsletter and join the conversation about protecting children’s health by moving to 100% clean energy.

 

 

Health Leaders Explore Opportunities to Increase Climate Change Mitigation and Advocacy

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On May 15, ecoAmerica and Climate for Health convened more than 50 health leaders for the National Climate and Health Leadership Forum, co-hosted by the American Psychological Association (APA) in Washington, D.C.  APA’s CEO, Dr. Arthur Evans, welcomed the participants and reaffirmed their commitment to addressing the mental health impacts of climate change.  In opening remarks on the State of Climate and Health, ecoAmerica’s Founder and President, Bob Perkowitz, and the American Public Health Association’s Executive Director, Dr. Georges Benjamin, discussed the role of health leadership in addressing climate change. Americans trust doctors and nurses as climate messengers, and are beginning to understand that health improves when we act on climate. Public health and healthcare leaders therefore have a responsibility to advocate for climate solutions while mitigating their own impact.

The first panel of the day featured speakers from the Children’s Environmental Health Network, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Green Latinos who grounded attendees in the overarching focus of health equity.  These ideas were woven throughout the forum discussions. Those who contribute the least to energy-generated pollution often suffer the most from its consequences.  Communities of color, children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor are more vulnerable to climate impacts.  A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that globally, children are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of disease due to climate change. In the work moving forward, it is imperative to seek to achieve health equity through clean energy solutions. 

Representatives from Kaiser Permanente, the American Geophysical Union, and My Green Doctor shared concrete mitigation examples for participants to consider in their own work, and the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, and Trust for America’s Health led participants in a vibrant advocacy discussion.  Finally, all participants engaged in an immersive discussion on the opportunities for collaboration, how we can best function as a coalition, and how to ready our organizations for participation.  Leadership from the American College of Sports Medicine, National Environmental Health Association, Health Care Without Harm, and the American Lung Association provided coalition-building steps they have each experienced and led.  

Discussions revealed several key insights:

  • Climate change is a health emergency and health professionals have an obligation to talk about it as such with patients, peers, and elected officials at all levels.

  • Health professionals are trusted messengers on climate change and are eager to act, but need support.

  • There is a need for one national health agenda on climate change around which health professionals can coalesce.

  • There is a desire to build an inclusive health movement on climate solutions which will require ongoing opportunities for discussion, collaboration, and support.

The forum closed with a call to action from ecoAmerica’s president, Bob Perkowitz, for concrete commitments to work towards 100% clean energy within organizations and health institutions. Climate for Health will support partners as they implement key milestones along their pathways to lead on climate solutions. Read the Forum Summary Report here to learn how.

 

Humans Have a Right to Clean Air and a Healthy Climate

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Whenever any technological process becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new processes that will seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

 

So, begins the “Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels,” which borrows from the original Declaration of Independence. Air pollution directly impacts two of the three unalienable rights, and without too much of a stretch, all of them. Our nation is founded on the principle that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are fundamental human rights. Local air pollution (in the U.S., primarily ozone and particulate matter (PM) 2.5) immediately affects life and the pursuit of happiness. Global air pollution (CO2 and other greenhouse gasses) affects all three, as the calamities associated with them contribute to political instability and the liberty of millions worldwide. The consequences of climate change are real, well-established, and happening now. Climate change needs to be addressed in four major areas: mitigation, adaptation and relief, remediation, and hope. In 2017, we saw record breaking climate impacts: hurricanes, rainfall, and wildfires. We are continuing to see them—in Maryland two “1,000-year” storms already in two years!

 

As we respond appropriately to the challenge of climate change, it will help clean the air. Clean air is the silver lining of climate change response. Although the warming temperatures will likely enhance ozone formation, there will be a reduction in precursors of both ozone and PM 2.5—hydrocarbon and oxides of nitrogen. Fossil fuel combustion continues to be the main source of this air pollution. So, as we move to more renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions, it will have a beneficial impact on local air pollution.

 

Fortunately, we have seen reductions in the cost and effectiveness of wind and solar energy in recent years, and an increase in the willingness of individuals, families, organizations, and governments to step forward and act. We are seeing manifestations of a principle observed by Thomas Jefferson, “Wherever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government…whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

 

In Utah we are seeing many examples of this:

  • Salt Lake City Mayor Biskupski is an ardent advocate for climate change response, serving as the Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Alliance for a Sustainable Future and an early adopter of the “Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy” goal.
  • Salt Lake County Health Department has a Climate Adaptation Plan and conducted a seminar for the community; they hosted their 4th Annual Climate and Health Symposium in April.
  • Utah Climate Action Network, led by Utah Clean Energy, provides climate leaders opportunities to share ideas and best practices on climate solutions; they are hosting Utah Climate Week in October for community members, organizations, and businesses to promote climate change awareness and action.
  • Intermountain Sustainability Summit is an annual event where sustainability professionals come together, featuring excellent speakers and concrete action examples.

 

We are in a difficult situation; things will get worse before they get better, but we have better tools and increasing energy to take the actions we need to.

 

Richard Spencer Valentine is a Licensed Environmental Health Scientist and National Envitonmental Health Association (NEHA) Climate Change Technical Advisor.  NEHA is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

 

Climate Change, Air Pollution, and Health: Making the Connection

As nurses, we know that clean air is essential for human health. Yet many people in the United States are living in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. According to the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report, more than 4 in 10 Americans are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution. Breathing in air filled with smog, soot, and other pollutants increases the risk of negative health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular and reproductive harm, and even premature death.

 

There is also a connection between air quality and climate change. A nurse’s work is essential to the survival and health protection of populations during and following climate-related events and understanding this connection is essential. In our communities, climate change is experienced as increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heatwaves, hurricanes, droughts, and flooding, all which contribute to serious health threats. Extreme heat, wildfires, and droughts, made worse by climate change, are of most concern when considering air pollution and health. For instance, rising temperatures contribute to increases in ozone pollution[i] and more intense and frequent wildfires worsens particle pollution[ii].

 

While most people agree that clean air is a personal right, the harmful health effects of unclean air are not distributed equally. For example, nurses who practice in clinical and public health settings addressing the health needs of vulnerable and low-income communities, witness first-hand how their patients and communities are disproportionally affected by poor air quality. Certain populations, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension) are more vulnerable to harm from breathing in dirty air. Health disparities based on race and socioeconomic statues are also noted. People of color and those living in poverty are more likely to experience higher burdens of exposure to particle pollution[iii], and almost half of U.S. Latinos live in cities that ranked highest for ground-level ozone pollution.[iv]

Advancing Clean Air, Climate, and Health: Opportunities for Nurses

 

As the largest portion of the healthcare workforce, nurses are uniquely positioned to advance the goals for a heathier Nation, including working to reduce the burden of air pollution. There are many actions that nurses and other health professionals can take to advocate and promote clean air for all. To start, nurses can take an active role in solutions by engaging and understanding the connection between one’s health and climate health. The Public Health Nursing Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) is working organizationally to educate public health nurses on this connection. Various resources exist to learn more about how climate change impacts air quality, including resources by APHA for public health professionals and a continuing education module by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments for nurses.

 

Public health nurses can also educate the populations and communities they care for on how to reduce exposures to dangerous air pollutants. One simple approach would be to utilize resources like AirNow.gov. AirNow.gov is a computer application that checks the air quality in different geographical areas, and offers helpful recommendations and precautions to take to reduce one’s health risk during an active wildfire. Lastly, nurses can move solutions forward that both reduce air pollution and help address climate change. In a recently released policy brief, the Academy of Nursing calls on nurses to advocate for public policies and systems change for monitoring the effects of climate change. These include advocating within practice settings to reduce carbon-intensive energy use and working with municipalities and states to shift towards renewable and clean energy. These solutions not only decrease greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and air pollution, but they help create a healthier more livable future for all Americans.

 

The Public Health Nursing section of APHA (APHA-PHN) is a member of the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health, a partnership between Climate for Health and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). Hannah Noel-Bouchard and Linda Bedker, represent APHA-PHN on the Nursing Collaborative.  ANHE is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

 

[i] American Lung Association. (2018). State of the Air 2018. Retrieved from http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/.

[ii] Climate Central. (2017). Western wildfires undermine progress on air pollution. Retrieved from http://www.climatecentral.org/news/report-wildfires-undermining-air-pollution-progress-21753.

[iii] Mikati, I., Benson, A.F., Luben, T.J., Sacks, J.D.,& Richmond-Bryant, J.(2018). Disparities in distribution of particulate matter emission sources by race and poverty status. American Journal of Public Health, 108(4), 480-485.

[iv] Qunitero, A., Constible, J., Declet-Barreto, J. & Madrid, J. (2016). Nuestro futuro: Climate change and U.S. Latinos. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/nuestro-futuro-climate-change-latinos-report.pdf.

2018 June American Climate Perspectives: Mid-Year Summary

Americans’ attitudes on climate are changing, and the change is in a positive direction. To better understand how these views are evolving, and what that may mean, ecoAmerica has pulled together the most recent public opinion survey data from some of the country’s most prominent polling firms.
 
The data is encouraging. Americans are increasingly aware that climate change is having real, concrete impacts that affect their lives right now. They want to take action individually, in their neighborhoods, and across the nation — and there is growing support for a clean energy future from across the political spectrum. These are the key takeaways from the 2018 June American Climate Perspectives Mid-Year Summary:

1. A growing number of Americans report seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change.

2. Americans are concerned about global warming, and that concern is increasing.

3. Americans want to do something personally, and collectively, to reduce our contributions to climate change. And they want to start now.

4. Americans support producing more clean energy and less dirty energy

5. Recent efforts to rollback climate action by the Trump Administration have little support.

6. Overwhelmingly, Americans from across the political spectrum find common ground on clean energy, grid modernization, and a carbon tax.

The results are clear: the American public is feeling the effects of climate change, and ready to start taking action. But for many, that next step is the most difficult one — what is one to do about this global problem?

To help get started, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series lays the groundwork for climate action in your community. The first in the series, Opening the Discussion, is a helpful guide for reaching out to others in your community, and building local momentum for action. The subsequent topics in the series delve into more specific spheres, and include: Our Biggest Health Challenge; Clean Energy; and Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.

Together, we can make a real difference in advancing climate solutions. But we must start today. To dig into the full details of the report, click HERE, or have a look at ecoAmerica’s latest research — and become the best climate communicator in your community!

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Now Available: June Talking Points

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The discourse around a warming world often gets hung up on politics, but what Americans really care about — and want to hear about— are the challenges and opportunities that climate change has for their families and communities. Strip away the science, politics, and technology, and remaining are people, their families, how climate change impacts their health, wealth, and wellbeing, and how solutions can benefit all three.
 
As we move into summer, families will spend more time outdoors, and whether at the ballpark or a national park, being outdoors can provide profound benefits for a child’s physical and psychological health. However, a changing climate may present new and potentially harmful health consequences, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. While different people may have different opinions about the causes of climate change, we are seeing extreme weather impact our health, and that of our children, in multiple ways. And, every parent wants to do what’s best to keep their child as happy and healthy as possible.

But how does climate change specifically impact children? What can be done to address the health of our climate and the well-being of our children? And can our actions really make a difference?

To help navigate the sometimes tricky nexus between climate change and child health, ecoAmerica has dedicated our June 2018 Talking Points to Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
 
Research shows that climate change disproportionately affects children, who are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of climate change-related diseases globally. Children living in low income families are exposed to greater levels of air pollution, community instability, and conflict. Fortunately, by acting now, we have the power to address climate change, and to protect the well-being of our children at the same time.
 
But we must start now. The climate that our children will learn, develop, and grow in is dependent on the actions we take today. In our April Talking Points, we explored how a clean energy future is well within our grasp. With smart investments in clean energy, Americans can create well-paying, stable jobs, decrease energy bills and put more money in their wallets. And, perhaps most importantly, we can leave our children and future generations an America where the air is clean and the water is safe, where families can have happy and healthy summers, now and for years to come. After all, caring for our climate is caring for our children.

Download June Talking Points

NEHA Members’ Climate and Health Awareness: Challenges, Growth, and Solutions

Addressing climate change can be overwhelming and daunting. However, NEHA and its Climate Change Program are up for the challenge. NEHA is meeting this task through its climate change website, which offers climate and health resources addressing: air quality, built environment, food security/food safety, and emergency response. These resources are recommended by NEHA’s Climate Change Committee and ecoAmerica.

Through its partnership with ecoAmerica, NEHA and ecoAmerica were able to provide the American Climate Metrics Survey to NEHA members in 2016 with a follow-up survey in 2017 to understand what NEHA members think about climate change, actions, and solutions. The survey exhibited improvements in 2017 from 2016 in attitudes towards clean energy solutions: a 9-point increase in the understanding that if the U.S. took steps toward clean energy and climate solutions, it would increase job opportunities; and a 10-point increase in perception of clean energy and climate solutions helping the economy. Increases that were on par with the national average include beliefs and concerns about climate change: 3% that it is happening, 1% are personally concerned, and 5% noticed more severe weather. There was a significant drop in NEHA members from 63% in 2016 to 52% in 2017 in the belief that there should be money to fund research and development of new clean energy sources.* Interestingly, it appears the survey being open September 18-28, 2017 during three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) did not greatly influence the results. NEHA members’ and environmental health professionals’ expertise on climate change and its impacts needs to be above the national averages.  The biggest take-aways from the survey are that NEHA members value clean air and water and feel a moral responsibility to work towards a safe and healthy climate, at higher rates than national averages. Additionally, a large majority believe communities need to prepare for floods and drought to minimize impact.

Some of the disconnect between environmental health and climate change could be explained by the lack of dialogue between environmental health practitioners and partnerships with emergency preparedness. Emergency preparedness is continuously planning for climate change events such as hurricanes, fires, and severe flooding. Environmental health often is not considered a traditional stakeholder in response planning, despite its crucial contribution during recovery. Communities are often behind in response recovery because environmental health was an afterthought, for example, shelters. Shelters are key in a disaster, and maintaining sanitary conditions is a priority for environmental health. Diseases such as norovirus and gastrointestinal infection can spread quickly. Environmental health involvement early on would build fail-safes to reduce or prevent the spread of disease.

While there have been improvements in NEHA members’ mindfulness of climate change and its health effects, the disconnect still exists. Based on the survey results, NEHA members are unaware of resources that can assist them in providing subject matter expert advice to policymakers and the public. Members see the beneficial solutions to health, however there is room for continual growth. NEHA and ecoAmerica are working on additional resources and tools that will help make the connection between environmental health and climate change stronger. When environmental health professionals engage, prepare, and collaborate with other professionals and community members on effective climate change strategies, then partnerships and solutions arise.


To learn more about the survey results and a training opportunity offered through our partnership with ecoAmerica at NEHA’s AEC, please join us for a webinar on Wednesday, May 23 at 1 pm.  Register here.


 

 

* This decrease can partially be attributed to more options being added to the survey for where money from a carbon fee could go. The second most favored option was for the money to help improve education and health services.

Christine Ortiz Gumina, MPH, and Vanessa T. DeArman are both NEHA Project Coordinators.

The National Environmental Health Association is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

 

 

 

A Closer Look: the Influence of Health and Faith on Climate

Are Americans looking to leaders outside of the political arena for guidance on climate change? ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners set out to find this answer in the May 2018 American Climate Perspective Survey (ACPS). The ACPS found that there is increasing opportunity for faith leaders and health professionals to lend their leadership to climate.

And the good news is that both are taking up the mantle. In addition to American Public Health Association making 2017 the year of climate and health, other associations have increased their climate advocacy, including the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) who recently hosted Climate, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action conference, bringing nurses together to discuss climate impacts on health and strategize protecting vulnerable communities. And, in addition to Pope Francis’ climate encyclical, Laudato Si, a diversity of faith leaders are elevating climate as a visible national issue. American Baptist Churches USA’s Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer recently announced its recommitment to care for God’s creation, including a call for clergy, congregations, and individual disciples to advocate for climate issues and solutions.

Despite all of this promising momentum, there is still work to do to fill the climate leadership gap. As the ACPS found, relatively few Americans are currently hearing information from faith or health leaders.

Opportunity Health

ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners found that Health professionals are the second most trusted messengers for information on climate change (62% nationally), just after scientists (70%), with a 5-point increase since 2015. But, unfortunately, only 20% of Americans report hearing about the climate from health professionals. As the report shows, Americans are increasingly feeling the impact of climate change on their health, and a majority are increasingly correlating climate solutions with the benefit of better health. All considered, the opportunity for health leadership on climate is simultaneously great and unfulfilled.

Hope in Faith

Although currently only 10% of Americans nationwide are hearing about climate change from faith leaders, four times as many people trust faith leaders as messengers on the topic. Nearly one in four (24%) Americans are talking about climate change at their place of worship already. As the report shows, the increase in both trust and climate conversation among people of faith is trending rapidly upward over the past few years. These results signal hope that faith leadership on climate is ascending with increasing growth potential.

Our Challenge

The climate movement is faced with a profound opportunity to accelerate health and faith leadership on climate. Americans seek guidance, and their trust in health and faith leaders on climate is growing. As we move into election season, and as climate impacts accelerate, we must inspire and empower health and faith leaders to become more visible on solutions. Missing this opportunity misses the mark for ensuring a healthy, thriving, habitable world.

ecoAmerica is doing all we can to meet this challenge, offering the Climate for Health program for health institutions and professionals, and Blessed Tomorrow, empowering a coalition of faith denominations and leaders to take up the mantle on climate solutions.

Read additional findings on the opportunity for faith and health leadership on climate by downloading the May 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey here.

Climate changes tribal and indigenous health

Climate change is today’s greatest public health challenge. While all of us will experience the health impacts of climate change, some groups, including tribal communities, are particularly vulnerable. Climate justice requires ensuring fair treatment of all people — regardless of race, gender and socioeconomic status — in creating policies and practices to address climate change. By providing resources and assistance to communities that need it most, we can create healthy environments for all. 

For almost five years, the American Public Health Association, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, convened the Tribal Public and Environmental Health Think Tank to raise awareness about and achieve improvements to the unique public and environmental health challenges faced by the communities they serve. To highlight climate change and other public health concerns impacting tribal communities, the Think Tank released a report, Priorities in Tribal Public Health.

The report highlights six tribal public health priority issues, including climate and health, along with food sovereignty and access, infrastructure and systems development, resource extraction, clean air and clean water. Priorities in Tribal Public Health discusses these priorities and provides some of the historical, political, social and cultural contexts key to understanding the unique issues tribal communities face, including the effects of climate change.

 

Climate change significantly impacts air, water and food. It has resulted in rising coastal water levels; more frequentforest and grass fires; increased pests and vector-borne disease; extreme weather conditions; decreased food availability; lower inland water and underground aquifer levels and non-native plant encroachment.

As a result of geographic vulnerabilities and extreme environmental changes, some American Indian/Alaska Native communities have been displaced and traditional food practices, medicines and ceremonies threatened.

Disruption of traditional practices

Weather pattern changes and warming waters can impact the health of local animals and plants if they are unable to migrate or adapt well to changing ecosystems. By threatening the health of local plants and animals, climate change disrupts the ability of Native populations to access traditional food and medicine sources and to perform traditional ceremonies.

American Indian/Alaska Native hunting and fishing rights are limited by treaty right boundaries, which historically have been subject to encroachment and litigation. This limits access to culturally important species that have migrated to other geographic areas and native plants that are unable to survive in the changing environment. Treaty rights give Native populations legal protections over these specific geographic areas, so merely reestablishing communities elsewhere is not always an option.

Water concerns

Many tribal reservations are rural and are highly dependent on surface water — such as reservoirs, lakes and streams. Surface water is particularly susceptible to non-point source pollution that enters waterways during heavy precipitation and storms. The frequency and severity of extreme storms becomes more of a concern due to the effects of climate change.

Climate change affects another precipitation extreme as well — droughts. People living in drought conditions may be more likely to encounter certain dangerous situations, including dust storms or flash floods. Drought conditions can contribute to wildfires and wildfire smoke exposure, which reduces air quality and increases respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations, as well as exacerbates asthma, bronchitis and other breathing problems.

Knowledge from the source

To combat the effects of climate change, many tribal communities are looking to their respective cultural knowledge and practices. Many American Indian/Alaska Native communities have prided themselves on traditional subsistence lifestyles and cultural practices based on direct contact with the environment for thousands of years. These communities have invaluable knowledge regarding the connection between human interaction with the environment and its resulting impacts on human health and well-being.

This Traditional Ecological Knowledge is constantly evolving and passed down through generations. It gives tribal communities a holistic understanding of the impacts of climate change and a unique approach to interpreting climate research. As an essential resource, TEK is critical to anticipating climate change consequences and designing adaptation responses in tribal communities.

Working in partnership

It is important to build understanding of tribal public and environmental health issues and increase support for initiatives addressing the concerns tribal communities face. Though 567 tribes are recognized by the federal government today, there remains little national recognition of the environmental injustices and lack of health equity thatimpact Indian Country.


We must work in partnership with tribal communities, learning from their traditional ecological knowledge, to address climate change and its health impacts, to give American Indian/Alaska Native communities a healthier future, while preserving cultural traditions and practices.


 

Ivana Castellanos is a Policy Analyst at the Center for Public Health Policy, American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA is a founding partner of Climate for Health, a network of health leaders committed to protecting the health and well-being of Americans and leading by example on a path to a positive future for climate solutions.

Visualizing Environmental & Climate Injustice in Rockport, Texas

I often struggle to instill in undergraduate nursing students the concept of inequity and why this is an important concept to understand for their nursing practice. I use the well-known slide of equality/equity of youth looking at a baseball game as it clearly shows why some people do need a redistribution of services in order to be successful and healthy. However being able to “see” inequity on a slide and “seeing” it in reality are two different matters. This is even more of a challenge when it comes to discussing how current inequities amplify the undue burden that some people will experience with climate change.

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, made landfall on August 2017, the largest storm to strike the US in over a decade. The costliest and wettest tropical cyclone on record, it inflicted nearly $200 billion in damage, primarily from widespread flooding in southeast Texas.(1) In Rockport/Fulton, a coastal community where Harvey made landfall, high winds and resulting floods inundated thousands of homes and severely damaged infrastructure. Now, many months later, Rockport is still reeling from the aftermath of Harvey.

In order to ensure health equity and prepare communities for the impacts of a changing climate on health, we must include evaluation of how populations are disproportionately affected in climate mitigation and adaptation planning. Currently, about 10,000 people live in the Rockport area year-round and they sustained disproportionate damage during Harvey.(2) Damage to health care infrastructure is creating or exacerbating existing health disparities among the residents of Rockport/Fulton, which includes diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Nurses work in a variety of community settings and are professionally obligated to address health disparities in the health sector and in caring for affected populations, making nurses uniquely positioned to foster the equitable solutions needed to promote health.

Thus, when UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing received funding (3) to provide health care support during Harvey recovery, the undergraduate Population Health faculty used it as teachable moment in understanding inequity. We are now providing a variety of health services at no cost: assessment; screening; administering Hepatitis A, tetanus and flu vaccines; and providing minor urgent care services. Students also had an opportunity to canvas the neighborhoods, going door-to-door to ensure that residents were well and that no cost health care was available if needed.

Now nursing students are able to “see” inequity due to consequences of climate change by the following: 1) year-round residents have not been able to fix their roofs and homes as they did not have insurance and did not receive enough from FEMA while seasonal residents who have second homes in Rockport were able to fix their homes quickly because they have sufficient resources to be able to do so; 2) year-long residents were not able to receive timely health care as Rockport’s healthcare infrastructure has been slow in returning while seasonal residents were able to receive timely health care; and 3) many year-long residents lost their employment because local businesses were unable to recover and now a food bank has started at a local ministry and continues to have a robust crowd coming for needed sustenance. As in all cases of severe weather events that are exacerbated by climate change; existing disparities and inequities are worsened. Rockport has become a case study of this phenomenon.

Student reflections of their experience have been very meaningful, often explaining how the students were awe struck by the devastation and the importance of giving voice and advocating for those most impacted. They describe the inequity that they were able to “see” and more importantly, have a positive impact because of their delivery of nursing care, bringing better into focus their reasons for choosing nursing as a career.

Adelita Cantu is a member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN). NAHN is a member of the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health, a partnership between ANHE and Climate for Health. Learn more about the NAHN and their work here. The Nursing Collaborative is a joint effort between national nursing organizations to elevate climate change as a priority issue among the nursing profession. Learn more about the Nursing Collaborative and how nurses can move climate action forward here.

 

1. Eberhart, George. “Hurricanes Harvey and Irma: Assistance for libraries still needed.” American Libraries. 1 November 2017. 

2. Frazee, Gretchen. “Ripped apart by Hurricane Harvey, this Texas community needs tourists to come back.” PBS Newshour.  29 January 2018. 

3. Sansom, Will. “School of Nursing aiding Harvey victims with Paul Simon gift.” UT Health San Antonio Newsroom. 22 September 2017. 

Now Available: April Talking Points

A clean energy future is within our grasp. We can have locally-made energy from the wind and the sun that ensures our air is clean and our water is healthy. Communities across America are learning that smart investments in clean energy protect our health, attract new business, create jobs, and build stronger communities for our families. Hundreds of corporations have either committed to or are using 100% clean energy. The momentum for electric cars is gaining, with multiple car manufacturers in a race to compete for market share.

On top of this, Americans want clean energy. Just as Americans view clean air and water as a personal right, they may also start to view clean energy in the same light.

But, is transitioning to 100% clean energy possible? How do we get there? What are the costs, and what are the benefits? What is holding us back? These are the questions that are on Americans’ minds.

To help answer these questions, ecoAmerica has pulled together a handful of helpful resources, and is dedicating our April 2018 Talking Points to clean energy.

Because, despite the fact that oil and coal companies are trying to hold onto their power and profits, and doing what they can to slow the transition to clean energy, there are many in these industries that know the markets for these fuels are waning.

Clean energy is both possible and practical, and the pace at which we achieve 100% clean energy depends on us. The more we support clean energy (with our votes as well as our pocketbooks), the more available and cheaper it will become, and the faster the transition.

America has always been a yes-we-can kind of place. We led the way into space and onto cell phones and the internet. Today, the next big thing is clean energy: affordable, local, wind and solar power made here and now, all across America, in every state and territory in our great nation. Clean energy to power our lives at home and work, create high wage work in America, and free us from the outdated fuels that pollute our air and water and change our climate. America can lead again in the new energy future, with innovations that will fuel a cleaner, safer, and better world for our families. The choice is ours to make.

Download Talking Points

Note: Clean energy refers to wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, and next-generation nuclear energies. ecoAmerica is mindful that all of these energies need to be pursued in ways that protect nature and the health and safety of humans, wildlife, and habitats.

Examining what impacts biking behavior beyond the bike lane: Climate and health co-benefits

We’ve all heard the expression, “If you build it, they will come.” Does it apply to bike lanes and cyclists? If we paint some lanes on the side of the road will we be overrun with cyclists? Is it really that simple? Is there anything beyond the bike lane that we can do to promote more participation in transportation-related biking? The simple answer is, indeed, yes there is.

The issue of understanding and promoting bicycling behavior is certainly complex, one pondered by a variety of stakeholders, including urban planners, traffic engineers, health officials and local biking advocates to name a few. It is important to note that it is, in fact, a BEHAVIOR that we’re trying to understand. Just like any other behavior (e.g., smoking, healthy eating, etc.), there is a wide range of things that impact the behavior, from the individual all the way to public policy. It’s important to identify these things because they give us something to target with programs or approaches.

Perhaps one of the greatest influences on biking behavior is the individual themselves—mostly their thoughts, attitudes and beliefs about bicycling. Their confidence for bicycling in urban spaces could also be a factor, all of which could relate to how much they actually enjoy biking. Social networks also can play a big role in whether a person opts to bike—if they have friends, family or coworkers who bike regularly, that can positively impact their own choices. Seeing others biking in the community also speaks to a better “biking culture” in which one feels more comfortable hitting the roads on two wheels when it seems there is more of a critical mass.

Some of the farthest-reaching approaches include the education, encouragement and supportive infrastructure (e.g., bike parking, locker rooms) that common destinations can provide. Schools and worksites are places that millions visit daily, so their role in promoting biking is essential and provides a connection to the greater community’s approach to biking. Policies at the local, state or federal level can offer support for biking through safety, education and the provision of resources. And, of course, the physical environment is another key component. It’s no surprise that features like shared use paths, protected bike lanes, traffic calming and connections with public transportation promote biking.


Estimates have shown that a mode share shift to more active modes of travel (i.e., biking) could save from four to 23 million tons of carbon a year for trips of less than three miles. 


Community leaders, key stakeholders or policymakers need to fully understand the expansive benefits associated with biking in order to garner support and resources to support this mode of travel. Beyond the notable benefits of improved health outcomes, bicycling as a sustainable form of transportation has significant “green” outcomes as well. The primary environmental benefits associated with biking are related to the shift in travel mode away from automobiles, with potential benefits of reduced pollution, traffic, congestion and improved air quality, resulting in a more sustainable environment. Air pollution and poor air quality have been linked to many chronic diseases (e.g., respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer), poorer quality of life, premature mortality, increased health care expenses and increased absenteeism at work and school. Estimates have shown that a mode share shift to more active modes of travel (i.e., biking) could save from four to 23 million tons of carbon a year for trips of less than three miles. Shifting travel patterns from automobiles to biking has clear implications for the environment, so understanding the influences on biking behavior is key on the pathway to more sustainable living.  

Whether as a stakeholder, advocate, or bicyclist, it is important to pose the questions, “Should we build it? Will they come?” But we must remember what lies beyond the bike lane.

Melissa Bopp is an associate professor of Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University and author of the forthcoming book: Biking for Transportation: An Evidence-base for Communities.

Accelerating Health Leadership on Climate Solutions: New Polling Results Indicate Americans’ Changing Attitudes

Isaac Newton’s third law of motion is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Recalling our physics lessons might give us some insight into Pew’s January 2018 polling results, which found a seven point increase in just the last year in Americans saying that protecting the environment should be a top policy priority.  This is a steep increase, especially compared to only an 11-point increase in the seven years before that, combined.  Attempts to undermine government agencies protecting the environment and roll back health-protective regulations – also in just the last year – may help explain Americans’ renewed enthusiasm for environmental protections. 


46% of Americans now say climate change should be a top policy priority, the highest since Pew started asking this question* in 2007. 


46% of Americans now say climate change should be a top policy priority, the highest since Pew started asking this question* in 2007.  We might be able explain this eight point jump over the past year through our increasing understanding of – or reaction to – climate impacts from devastation from hurricanes Harvey and Maria and wildfires in California.

While the Pew results reveal a deep partisan divide in prioritizing environment and climate change policies, they also provide insight in thinking about key leadership on solutions.  Their 2016 report, The Politics of Climate, found that “some 84% of U.S. adults express confidence in medical scientists to act in the public’s best interests.”  These are higher numbers than trust in scientists in general.  Key findings from ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Metrics Survey bolster this idea: … Americans place the highest levels of trust in scientists (70%) and health professionals (62%).  

Newton’s second law of motion applies here: Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. Health leaders can play a pivotal role in increasing the force of climate action and advocacy by inspiring the Americans who trust them to #ActOnClimate.  We can increase the number of people getting involved and the pace at which we are taking action.


 Health leaders can play a pivotal role in increasing the force of climate action and advocacy by inspiring the Americans who trust them to #ActOnClimate.  We can increase the number of people getting involved and the pace at which we are taking action.


Leaders in the health community face a momentous opportunity to champion climate solutions as a priority for public health, which is why ecoAmerica and Climate for Health are hosting a National Climate and Health Leadership Forum** later this spring.  We will bring together organizational and thought leaders from national health and medical associations, public health organizations, and academic institutions to collaborate on the best paths forward toward greater climate mitigation and advocacy at this critically important time for advancing public support and political will. 

Finally, we consider Newton’s first law of motion: an object at rest will remain at rest unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.  America is a big contributor to the effects of climate change and therefore, American voters must be active in helping to solve the issue that has affected the entire planet. At ecoAmerica and Climate for Health, we are leaders in helping to connect all Americans for the common good of the planet. This begins with starting the discussion on climate and making recommendations for climate solutions.  Our partners are also spearheading initiatives to get involved at every level.  Learn the ways climate is impacting our health from the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, the American Psychological Association, the National Environmental Health Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics; join the American College of Sports Medicine’s ActivEarth Campaign; and participate in the American Public Health Association’s National Public Health Week coming up in the first week of April.   

Climate for Health and ecoAmerica can help you start the discussion on climate and implement recommendations for climate solutions in the year 2018.  Let’s get moving; the time is now.     

*From 2007 – 2015, Pew used the language “global warming” in this question, and transitioned to “climate change” in 2015 – 2018

**The Leadership Forum is by invitation only.  If you would like to recommend a leader to attend, please contact ecoAmerica’s Events Manager Ashley Lane at [email protected]

Collective nursing leadership: Addressing climate change now and in the future

Since the start of our profession, nurses have made the connection between a healthy environment and improved health. Having clean air to breathe and clean water to drink are essential for human health and a key component to disease prevention. Thus, as health professionals, nurses have a professional obligation to address environmental factors that influence health. As climate change threatens to impact various aspects of health and well-being, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) is working to build the nursing workforce with climate literate nurses and empower those nurses to take action in their practice settings.

Nurses are key to the climate movement. With our holistic view of caring for people and as trusted messengers of health information, we are uniquely positioned to positively influence the adoption of climate solutions. However, we must ensure that our profession is equipped with the knowledge and tools to address climate change now and in the future, to continue our profession’s legacy of protecting health. ANHE aims to achieve this by preparing the next generation of nurse leaders and through collective nursing leadership.

 

Preparing the Next Generation of Nurse Leaders

Nursing curriculum, like most other health professions schools, is lacking content on climate change and health. To fill this gap, the ANHE Education Work Group has created recommendations for how to incorporate climate and health content into all levels of nursing education. The recommendations pair climate related content with a specific class or general content area already included in nursing curriculum, with suggested teaching strategies to help make the addition of content seamless. In addition, the recommendations provide support for how content relates to nursing concepts and competencies. It is essential that the next generation of nursing career professionals is not only knowledgeable about this topic area, but is also able to adequately respond to the health impacts of climate change.

Various other educational offerings are accessible on the ANHE website for nursing faculty, novice learners, and students to utilize to learn more about climate change and health. These resources include an award winning, open-access, peer-reviewed e-textbook, Environmental Health in Nursing, and a 2017 report developed by nurses for nurses, Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action.

 

Collective Nursing Leadership

In addition to supporting the nursing workforce through education, ANHE aims to assist in building collective nursing leadership that will expand the ability of nurses to positively influence climate solutions. To do this, ANHE in partnership with Climate for Health, have formed a Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health. The collaborative consists of national nursing organizations that have committed to making climate change a health priority by increasing awareness and engagement among their members. By working within nursing organizations, the collaborative aspires to empower the millions of nurses nationwide to reduce their climate impact, build resiliency in communities and institutions as we prepare for the effects of climate change, and advocate for health protective policy.

Signatories of the collaborative include the: Association of Public Health Nurses, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, National Student Nurses Association, and Public Health Nursing section of the American Public Health Association. Learn more about the collaborative effort here.

 

How to Get Involved: What Can Nurses Do?

There are several actions that nurses can take to support climate-friendly environments at work, in communities, and in daily life. Through our new online Climate and Health Toolkit nurses can learn more about the actions they can take in various practice settings, from academic institutions to hospitals to community settings. The toolkit offers best practices with tips and ideas from nurses who have successfully implemented climate change initiatives in their practice settings or communities.

Additionally, please join us at ANHE’s 2nd annual nursing summit prior to Practice GreenHealth’s CleanMed conference in San Diego, CA on May 6th-7th. Leading nurse experts in environmental health will present on the most pressing concerns facing our patients and communities, including climate change. To learn more and to register, visit here

 

Cara Cook, MS, RN, AHN-BC is the Climate Change Program Coordinator at the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.

 

Honoring Our Heritage, Leaving a Legacy: Environmental Health and Climate Change

“Legacy” is defined, in part, as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past.” We often think about legacies in personal terms associated with our children—what will our legacy be to them when we are gone? And can it leave them in a better place than they were before?

We think less often about business or organizational legacies. But organizational legacies can be even more important than personal ones because of the resources behind them and their potential impact on both individuals and society.

 

 

Since 1937, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has worked to advance the environmental health profession and to protect the public and the environment. Over time, NEHA’s work has evolved as new environmental health threats have been identified and their impacts better understood. NEHA’s work around climate and health is also evolving. In 1997, NEHA published its first position paper on Global Climate Change. The position paper stated that NEHA supports the concept that “greenhouse gases are responsible for a significant portion of the measured change in global climate” and “supports the concept of an association between global warming and an increased risk to public health.” In 2007, NEHA began publishing articles and columns addressing climate change in its Journal of Environmental Health. And beginning with its 2008 Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition, climate change and sustainability educational sessions were added to the agenda. NEHA revised its position in 2017 when its board of directors adopted a new Climate Change Policy Statement. Through position and policy papers, journal publications, conference education, and focus groups, NEHA has acknowledged and discussed climate change as an issue of professional concern.

 

In 2017, NEHA formed its Climate Change Program Committee, giving new emphasis to the area. As a member of the Climate Change Program Committee, I am grateful for the chance to give input and guidance on this issue to NEHA. The committee hopes its efforts to provide climate change information and tools can help more environmental health professionals better understand the relevance of this issue to their field, and to either begin or expand work in this critical area.

It’s worth noting that at various times in the past, the idea that the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe affects our health was pioneering. Many of the health and environmental gains we have achieved are because of people—and organizations—who have understood the importance of being open to new ideas, had the commitment to move in new directions, and built a positive legacy from their work.

 

Climate change might be the most important issue of our time. It’s rewarding to be part of NEHA as it broadens its work in this area to leave a positive legacy—for current members, environmental and public health professionals, and everyone.

 

Mr. Richard Hicks, MPA, is a member of the National Environmental Health Association’s Climate Change Committee and Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, Columbus Public Health.

Now Available: February Talking Points

Health professionals have always been on the front lines of caring for their patients and advocating for solutions to America’s most pressing public health concerns. Today, as climate change delivers record-breaking storms, droughts, and increased pollution, health leaders are stepping forward to lead.

If we can inspire and empower health professionals to lead on climate, we can reach every city and county in the nation with a new climate message, and new reasons to support solutions. We know that Americans are not very motivated when we speak about climate change using environmental jargon. And, it simply isn’t authentic or inspiring for health professionals to talk about GHGs or Market Based Mechanisms. But it IS both authentic and motivating for them to talk about air pollution, asthma, and the health benefits of solutions.

 

The health and wellbeing of our children, families and future generations is at stake. We can make a difference.

These talking points provide a starting point. Tailor and use them in your conversations and writing to build support for climate solutions.


1. I became a health professional because I care about health – the health of
everyone in our community.
I want to heal people, but it’s also important to prevent
the causes of illness and injury.

2. Each breath we take should be a healthy one, and caring for ourselves means
caring for our climate.
We can prevent further climate change and protect our health
– and that of future generations – at the same time.

3. Fossil fuels damage our climate and are dangerously unhealthy. We know these
dirty fuels pollute our air and water. And, the toxic pollution we’re adding to the
atmosphere is steadily building up to dangerous levels.

4. Some people are more vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change,
including children, the elderly, the sick, low-income, and some communities of
color.
Our efforts to stop pollution help all of these groups live longer, healthier lives.

5. If we stop pollution from fossil fuels, we can slow climate change and improve
our health, now and for future generations.
We reduce diseases and illness brought
on by pollution – and – we slow the rising temperatures that are changing weather
patterns and causing more intense storms and severe weather conditions, all of which
threaten our health.

6. It is up to us, as respected community leaders, to lead on climate and leave a
legacy of health.
We can speak with authority on the climate and health connection,
and convey the myriad of health benefits of stopping climate pollution.

7. Of all the things we’d love to leave our children and future generations, a
healthy place for them to raise children of their own may be the most important.

 

Access the full guide here: Download

 

A Path to Positive on Climate in 2018

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope….”– A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1859, p. 1)

Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities seems uncannily relevant this January. It’s been a cold and dark month; it’s been warm and bright. It’s been rife with setbacks; it’s been filled with progress. Our darkest shadows have been revealed, our greatest potential uncovered.   For those of us working in America to protect and heal our climate, the present period strains for comparison.

Rather than turn fatalistic – or rest on our laurels – it’s time to reset, apply learnings, and manifest new goals. It’s time to shift the storyline of climate change to solutions and success.  

Let’s begin.

It is the worst of times…

President Trump has been in office for just over one year, and according to ecoAmerica’s recent American Climate Perspectives Survey (Fery, Speiser, Lake, & Voss, 2018), some worrying signs are emerging. More than 1 in 3 Americans believe there’s nothing we can do to stop climate change – an 8 point increase (from 28% to 36%) from last year – and 1 in 4 believe the costs and sacrifices of solutions are too high, a 9 point increase (from 34% to 43%). Not only that, more Americans support oil and coal than a year ago – up by 5 points for oil (from 42% to 47%) and up 7 points for coal (from 30% to 37%).

We have experienced a series of setbacks in 2017, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, removing climate change as a national security threat, and more than 30 federal environmental policy rollbacks.

And all the while our climate is changing, fast. Last year was particularly tragic with climate change-exacerbated extreme weather – storms, floods, fires, droughts and freezes – that pummeled countries, states, cities, and people’s health, wealth, and wellbeing globally.

It is the best of times…

America is waking up to climate action. Local governments nationwide, along with major corporations and large institutions are pledging to honor the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, despite the United States withdrawal. From We Are Still In, to America’s Pledge, Ready for 100, and others, many American leaders are committing to climate action.

Clean energy deployment is rapidly accelerating. Solar power was the largest contributor to new electricity generation last year, contributing 47% of the newly installed renewable power capacity. Wind power is accelerating just as fast, and together, wind and solar have gone from virtually nothing to 10% of America’s electricity supply according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The cost to produce solar energy has fallen below the cost to produce coal and gas, making solar the fiscally attractive option. Automobile manufacturers have begun competing for electric car market share. And China, the UK, France, Norway, and others have all announced bans on new fossil fuel vehicles in their countries by 2030 or 2040.

Americans want climate action, and to act on climate. Despite the uptick in support for coal and oil in 2017, support for clean energy tops the list, by a large margin. According to ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Metrics Survey, a burgeoning constituency of Americans are taking action on climate, and want their local and our federal government to do the same. Majorities are also seeing the personal benefits solutions will bring to their health (67%, up from 58% in 2015),    the economy (64%, up from 53% in 2015), and jobs (61%, up from 53% in  2015).

We have everything before us…

Action taken today can change the trajectory of climate change. It can improve lives in cities and towns, nationwide and worldwide. Committing to lead on climate, to do what we can to reduce our impact, and use the power of our leadership to voice the need for – and benefits of – climate solutions is one of the most pressing opportunities of our era.

There is immense power in people coming together from all walks of life – health professionals, faith leaders, and regional and city leaders as well as individuals and corporations, people of all ethnicities and backgrounds – to take the reins on climate leadership. Major institutions in health, faith, communities, education, business, and culture are committing to reduce their climate impact and advocate for solutions. Their leadership inspires tens of millions of Americans on climate change, in counties and communities nationwide including in our heartland.

And we can do more. We can nurture new leadership and take advantage of the growing accessibility of climate solutions like efficiency, clean energy, and restoring nature. We can share our learnings, best practices and resources with each other, to help us all go farther, faster. We can make the benefits of climate solutions visible and tangible by implementing them at a local level, engaging Americans in their daily lives. Most of all, we can share loudly a new vision on climate, one that eschews cost and sacrifice and embraces investment, benefits, and a moral responsibility to our children and future generations.

ecoAmerica can help. We help by providing strategy, tools, resources and collaboration opportunities to increase climate literacy, engage constituents, and build collective action and advocacy for climate.

To that end, we have started a new Talking Points series covering key questions and topics on climate. We will continue to publish our monthly American Climate Perspectives survey. Our Recommendations Report, from the American Climate Leadership Summit, identifies dozens of opportunities and priorities for climate action and advocacy. Let’s Lead on Climate is our guide with stories and recommendations on building climate programs at a local level, and our Let’s Talk Climate series offers comprehensive guides for communicating on climate. Finally, we are and will continue to find ways to bring the best research and practical guidance forward to help us all to be more effective.  

2018 is our opportunity to forge a path to positive on climate.

“If our federal leadership won’t take up the mantle, the rest of us must. It’s up to us. We have to make the great transition happen now. And we can do it.”

    – Bob Perkowitz, President, ecoAmerica

 

1 Year In: Poll Finds Trump Stirring Climate Attitudes, Action

Most of what Americans heard from the Trump Administration in its first year focused on dismissing climate change as a human-made problem, undermining the legitimacy of news organizations covering the issue, and announcements about regulation rollbacks and exiting the Paris Agreement. Eschewing support for climate solutions, the rhetoric centered on jobs, the economy, reviving the coal industry, and opening up new areas for oil exploration. All of which seem to have impacted American attitudes and actions in dramatic ways.

The January 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners found notable year-over-year changes of key climate attitudes and actions. The survey found significant shifts, both upward and downward, in trust, energy, hope, and action. The largest decrease was a 10-point decline in trust of the President as a source of information on climate change. The largest increases were in climate action.

Below are some highlights of our monthly poll; you can download the full report HERE.

 

 

  • Only 31% of Americans currently trust President Trump on climate, a 10-point drop from the 41% who trusted President Obama in 2016.
  • Rising support for increasing the production of fossil fuels is likely responsible for the 9-point increase (to 25%) in trust for oil companies as a source of the very information they work to disprove.
  • There was a 7-point increase (to 37%) in support for more coal production, and a five-point increase (to 47%) in support for more oil.
  • More than 1 in 3 Americans now believes there is nothing we can do to stop climate change, an 8-point increase from last year.

 

 

Despite the rise in oppositional attitudes, personal action and local, community-based action on climate are on the rise. And there is mounting evidence that more Americans are eager for local solutions and are invigorated to elevate action and advocacy on solutions.

  • 1 in 4 Americans have discussed climate change at their place of worship, a 10-point increase from 2016.
  • More than one-third (36%) of Americans have heard or read about climate change from friends and family (up from 27% in 2016).
  • Some 22% now report they have purchased wind or solar energy for their homes, up from only 13% who reported having done so in 2016.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 Americans now report that their city is taking action to prepare for climate change, up from 1 in 5.

 

 

Please download the January survey here.   For more information, contact Meighen Speiser, ecoAmerica Chief Engagement Officer, at [email protected]

 

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Welcome to Climate Talking Points! Your New Tools

It can be hard to have a positive discussion on climate change. It is a complex issue. Many of us are in our ideological information bubbles or struck by seemingly conflicting information. As we enter 2018, passions are high on both sides, and the stakes even higher. If you want to move your family, colleagues, or community forward on the issue, what do you do?

Opening Up the Conversation

At Climate for Health, we work with America’s national health and medical associations and practitioners to support their efforts to understand the implications of climate change, and to develop practical, effective strategies for them to address solutions with their millions of members. As with the rest of ecoAmerica, our parent organization, our work starts with people, and involves listening to truly understand their values, concerns, and priorities. We’ve learned a lot, and will share what we’ve learned with you in ecoAmerica’s new series: Climate Talking Points.

Each month, ecoAmerica will pick a topic or theme related to climate change, providing both positive talking points and some responses to key questions or criticisms around that topic.  The goal is to open up the conversation, focus on common values, and help us all move forward together on climate solutions.

This month, Climate Talking Points offers 9 tips for opening the discussion and counterpoints to common arguments related to energy. Download your copy HERE.

This guidance is grounded in ecoAmerica’s extensive research on climate communications, and experience deploying it (see list and links at the bottom of this page). This advice might sometimes conflict with what you think is “common sense.” For instance, health professionals’ work is grounded in science, and yet some may believe their profession has nothing to do with climate change, or that it’s not appropriate to talk about it in a clinical setting. So simply appealing to science may not do the job. 

But the research shows that medical pros — particularly nurses– are trusted by their patients and the larger community.  Who you are as an individual and the trusted role you play as a healthcare leader (including among your peers) are ultimately what will give the words you use their power. Besides living your values in an exemplary way, the leverage you have is that people in your circles tend to share your values, but may not yet be  “activated” on climate change. Use your connections, and this guidance, to reach out to your colleagues and patients. 

A Wealth of Resources

Also please take advantage of the wealth of climate communications reports, research guides, and webinars available for download on the ecoAmerica website. They include:

American Climate Values

Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Communications
15 Steps to Effective Climate Communications

the Let’s Talk Climate research series, including:

The monthly American Climate Perspectives Survey
The annual American Climate Metrics Survey

Find common ground, and then take action. Each of us can make a big difference. Please download your Climate Talking Points today.

We welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Please contact Chief Engagement Officer Meighen Speiser at [email protected]

                                               

 

ACLS 2017 Recommendations Report: Taking Up the Health Mantle

It’s here! The Recommendations Report from the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit, “Taking Up the Mantle,” was published at the close of last year.

On October 25 and 26, our parent organization, ecoAmerica, brought together 300 diverse national leaders from across sectors and society to the National Press Club in Washington, DC. During these two days, we listened to inspiring speakers and discussions and strategized on how to expand and accelerate effective climate action and advocacy in interactive forums, working together to plan paths forward during these critical times. The Summit recognized the inspiring leadership now burgeoning nationwide, and served as a rallying point to amplify that leadership in 2018 and beyond.

This year’s Recommendations Report collects the insights of more than 40 world-class speakers, summarizes the six sessions and strategic planning forums, and lists their top recommendations moving forward — nationally, locally, and with key constituencies.

Healthcare Sector Up Front

The healthcare sector played a large role at the Summit. Dr. Lynn Goldman, Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, gave the keynote on Day 2. She focused on the health effects of record-breaking natural disasters linked to climate change.

Reflecting on Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in September, Dr. Goldman noted, “We still don’t even know the full extent of the public health impact there, including death and injury rates. The health community has to step up. …Climate change is an issue that requires connecting with people on a very personal level, and that isn’t going to happen from Washington…. This is not a partisan issue — this is a health issue.”

Later, a full session focused on exploring the Health Mantle. Moderated by Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, it featured Anabell Castro Thompson, President and CEO of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses; Dr. V. Fan Tait, Chief Medical Officer at the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Jack Ende, President of the American College of Physicians; and Jim Whitehead, CEO of the American College of Sports Medicine. 

A Path Forward

The panel was followed by a strategic forum on Health Leadership on Climate, moderated by Leyla McCurdy, Director of Climate for Health.The forum offered an opportunity to reflect on the health sector’s discussions at this Summit, our progress over the past year, and how we can build on these successes to increase capacity for action and advocacy going forward.

The forum identified the following key opportunities to accelerate health leadership on climate (edited for space):

What is needed to engage and support more health professionals in implementing climate solutions in their places of practice?

1. Create coalitions and partnerships.

2. Promote centrally located clinics and practices.

3. Distribute Green the Workplace Kits for clinics and practices. 

4. Share climate leadership case studies. 

5. Expand and offer financial incentives such as awards programs.

What is needed to activate more health professionals to advocate for climate solutions?

1. Accelerate health association leadership. 

2. Provide climate communication guidance and support. 

3. Expand climate and health education. (For an example, see this blog.)

4. Empower and activate health advocacy cohorts and champions.

5. Catalyze outreach and engagement campaign opportunities. 

6. Establish formal disease diagnosis codes for climate change related diseases.

 

View the Full Report!

You can download and read the complete report here.  It’s meant to be used: We’d love to hear your ideas and what you are working on! Please contact Leyla McCurdy at [email protected] or Meighen Speiser at meighe[email protected]

 

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5 Major Nursing Groups Join Climate Action Collaborative

On November 28 in Washington, D.C.,  the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) and ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health program announced that five prominent nursing organizations have joined them as signatories of the new Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health.

The collaborative will empower millions of nurses nationwide to reduce their climate impact, help patients, communities, and healthcare institutions prepare for the effects of a changing climate on patient health, and advocate for climate solutions locally, regionally and nationally, including within the institutions where they work. Organizations in the collaborative represent nurses from differing specialties, including the following founding partners:

  • Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN)
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN)
  • National Student Nurses Association (NSNA)
  • Nurse Alliance of Services Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare
  • Public Health Nursing Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA

Through the collaborative, nursing organizations will elevate climate change as an environmental and public health issue that can be influenced positively by those in the nursing profession.

“I am so excited to this part of this timely and much-needed collaborative. Healthy environments are critical to healthy communities, and position individuals to enjoy rich lives,” said Dian Palmer, Chairperson of the SEIU National Nurse Alliance. “We cannot deny the inherent connection between climate change and health, and this issue deserves our steady attention because safe environments don’t only protect lives, but they are a significant part of a just and safe society. It is incumbent upon each us to pay attention.”

Nurses are seeing first-hand the social justice implications of our changing climate. Through the collaborative, nurses will bring attention to the needs of communities that are disproportionately affected. “The negative effects of climate change on Hispanic health are exacerbated by where we live and work, as well as challenges to adequate healthcare and medical resources,” said Anabell Castro Thompson, President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN). “NAHN has a special interest in improving the health of Latinos and Latino communities. Because of the link between climate change and health, we also have a growing interest in climate change and the environment in general. Addressing these issues as a member of the collaborative further strengthens our position to promote preventative health measures and health protective climate solutions.”

“Nurses are front-line responders who are seeing increasing health impacts from our changing climate,” said Katie Huffling, ANHE Executive Director. “They understand how climate solutions will benefit patient and client health, and want to increase their action and advocacy. We are proud to help them do so through this collaborative, and encourage other associations to join us and the great founding partners we’re announcing today.”

“We are seeing climate concern skyrocket in America, with health and well-being weighing heavily on American minds,” said Bob Perkowitz, President of ecoAmerica. “We are proud to partner with ANHE and these associations to make real progress on climate solutions, and to help our citizens protect their health and that of their families and future generations.”

To learn more about the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health and encourage your nursing association to join, visit http://envirn.org/nursingcollaborative.

To watch the Nurses Caring for Climate and Health video, click here.  

 

About the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments is the only national nursing organization focused solely on environmental health issues. The mission of the Alliance is to promote healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice, and influencing policy.

About ecoAmerica

ecoAmerica builds institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States. We help national mainstream organizations elevate their climate leadership, providing them strategy, tools and resources to: demonstrate visible climate leadership, empower climate literacy, engage all constituents, and build collective action and advocacy. We help our partners permanently transform into national climate leaders who inspire others on solutions. Climate for Health is a program of ecoAmerica.

About the Association of Public Health Nurses

The Association of Public Health Nursesis an organization of public health nurses from across the United States and its Territories. APHN works to protect and promote the health and safety of the public by fostering high public health nursing practice standards, promoting and providing educational opportunities, and advancing the public health nursing role.

About the National Association of Hispanic Nurses

The National Association of Hispanic Nurses is a national non-profit association dedicated to promoting public health and the nursing profession for Hispanics in the United States.

About the National Student Nurses Association

The National Student Nurses Association is a membership organization representing over 60,000 students in Associate Degree, Diploma, Baccalaureate, and generic Masters programs preparing students for Registered Nurse licensure, as well as RNs in BSN completion programs.

About the Nurse Alliance of Services Employees International Union Healthcare

The Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare represents over 85,000 registered nurses across the United States working together to stand up for patients and the nursing profession and preserve quality, affordable healthcare for all. To learn more visit: seiu.org.

About the Public Health Nursing Section of the American Public Health Association

The Public Health Nursing Section represents over 1200 nurses in the areas of public health nursing practice, education, and research. Public health nurses interpret and articulate the health and illness experiences of diverse and often vulnerable community members and collaborate with people of many disciplines to plan, deliver, implement, and evaluate health programs and policies. Social justice, equity, and environmental health are among the Section’s strategic priorities.

Let’s Lead on Climate, featuring Chris Uejio of Florida’s BRACE (Building Resilience Against Climate Effects) program

Following on the success of our Let’s Talk series of guides, ecoAmerica has released Let’s Lead on Climate, a new guide featuring success stories from local health, faith, and community leaders who are promoting climate leadership and action. Each case study offers an inside look at why these individuals and organizations decided to lead on climate, how they developed their programs and initiatives, and what it took to overcome challenges along the way.  This week’s Climate for Health blog features an excerpt from Let’s Lead focusing on the second of our health leaders, Chris Uejio of Florida’s BRACE (Building Resilience Against Climate Effects) program, which is working with local communities across Florida to build resilience to climate and health impacts.

Building Resilience: Florida BRACE, featuring Chris Uejio

BRACE for climate impacts and action

Climate impacts are no strangers to Florida. Chris Uejio, project lead of Florida’s BRACE (Building Resilience Against Climate Effects) program, explains, “Communities across Florida are dealing with hurricanes, drought, wildland fires, coastal flooding, and the Zika virus. We saw a need and an opportunity to translate our findings (forecasting impacts and assessing vulnerabilities regarding the state of the climate) to county health departments who are on the front lines of these threats. We also wanted to build public health capacity to address this very urgent topic of climate and health.”

With grants and support from the Florida Department of Health, Florida BRACE was able to engage county health departments. The program seeks to help public health officials respond to the health effects of climate variability and change by incorporating the best available science in true routine practice with goals set to guide them. Counties propose topics ranging from reducing the urban heat island effect to emergency management and preparedness, and receive small grants from BRACE to build out plans and strategies.

Not all communities fit the same planning and strategy mold

The BRACE program realizes that not every plan can fit every county or impact a community may experience. Uejio explains that, while some of their strategies are generalizable, they must be tailored to each community, depending on its concerns, stressors, capacities to adapt, and political climates. “On a scientific and a community engagement level you have to be flexible and willing to work with a variety of communities,” Uejio comments.

Uejio says many county health departments have “the overarching challenge that they are generally underresourced.” He continues, “County health departments are very resourceful, however.” But, depending on the size of these departments, there can be even fewer resources and staff available to make climate change a priority. “Even though it touches so many health outcomes on their radars, engaging on climate change can be a little bit more difficult–they may just not have the capacity to do it.”

“Communicating that message is a challenge. There are risks present to everyone, yet we have to pay special attention to certain higher-risk populations.”

The BRACE program is designed to address equity, too. Uejio highlights how impacts disproportionately impact many communities like children, older adults, those with preexisting health conditions, the poor, homeless, and people living in high-risk areas. Uejio stresses, “Communicating that message is a challenge. There are risks present to everyone, yet we have to pay special attention to certain higher-risk populations.”

Piloting for learning and leverage

While at first it was a struggle to plan for the variety of impacts and health issues that would arise in counties across the state, Uejio says they quickly learned how to solve this since they are at the front lines of dealing with these events. He remarks,“We asked them to suggest pilot projects that we would work on collaboratively. Together, we build the evidence base to improve public health.”

Uejio points to the example of Sarasota County’s multi-pronged strategy, which BRACE helped support. Rather than targeting specific hazards such as hurricanes or drought, the strategy took an “all-hazards approach.” Never knowing what might hit their county, they decided to identify and focus on the commonalities of how they could prepare and respond to a variety of hazards that may occur in the future and included other sectors, such as transportation, communication, and electricity generation.

Recommendations

• Be proactive, not reactive. BRACE had to respond quickly to the Zika outbreak. This led to more short and long-term resilience and emergency response planning.

• Strategies to make society more resilient to extreme events are win-win. They are worthwhile investments that bring jobs to local communities and help heal the community after a disaster.

• Share your successes and learnings with other health departments.

• In communications, make climate impacts and solutions personally relevant.

Key Metrics

• Program based at Florida State University and has been running for 5 years

• Provided a total of $66,000 in grants to counties to work on their climate adaptation and mitigation plans and action

• Secured $1.07 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with the county health departments across Florida to prepare for climate change

• Has worked with 5 counties, representing a combined total of over 1.5 million Floridians within the state, and is actively seeking to work with more

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF NOVEMBER 4-NOVEMBER 10

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

In their new book, Jay Lemery, MD, Climate for Health Leadership Circle member and expert in wllderness and environmental medicine, and Paul Auerbach, MD, specialist in emergency medicine, share their physicians’ perspective on the health impacts of climate change

Sounding the alarm on climate change: In book ‘Enviromedics,’ physicians explore link between global warming and human health by Chris Casey, CU Anschutz Today

As climate change-linked wildfires threaten to undo decades of progress on reducing air pollution, even short term wildfire events may have long term impacts on human health

Climate change–fueled wildfires pollute the air and make people sick by John Upton and Barbara Feder Ostrov, Grist

The Fourth National Climate Assessment reports on profound past and future changes for the American west and shares necessary measures for alleviating them

What a new report on climate science portends for the West: From wildfires to drought, a look at a warming world by Maya L. Kapoor, High Country News

Joshua Tree National Park shares the facts, just the facts, on the ways a warming climate is impacting our planet

Official National Park account: There’s ‘overwhelming consensus’ on climate change by Rebecca Savransky, The Hill

Perspectives

Last week, the American Public Health Association held its Annual Conference in Atlanta, its capstone event recognizing 2017 as the Year of Climate Change and Health

Welcome to APHA 2017: Climate Changes Health by Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Contributor, HuffPost

In this month’s American Climate Perspectives Survey, 75% of Americans say a candidate’s stance on climate change will sway how they vote and climate concern is rising after hurricanes

American Climate Perpsectives, November 2017 by ecoAmerica

Solutions

As nations continue to convene for this year’s Summit in Bonn, Germany, hosted by Fiji, they must commit to significant action to meet the goals set forth at COP 21 in Paris in 2015

The COP23 climate change summit in Bonn and why it matters by Damian Carrington, The Guardian

The Archbishop of Canterbury discusses the role of the faithful in loving one’s neighbor and addressing climate change

Our Moral Opportunity on Climate Change by Justin Welby, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times

“Smarter energy is…a huge economic opportunity. And that’s something we should all be supporting, no matter what our political affiliation.”

Energy Efficiency: Bipartisan Solution That Needs Support by Ralph Cavanagh, National Resources Defence Council

In its new Let’s Lead on Climate guide, ecoAmerica shares inspiring examples of local leaders moving their communities forward on climate, including Shanda Demorest of Health Students for a Healthy Climate, the subject of this week’s blog.

Let’s Lead: New ecoAmerica Guide Features Health Professionals Leading the Way on Climate

Following on the success of our Let’s Talk series of guides, ecoAmerica has released Let’s Lead on Climate, a new guide featuring success stories from local health, faith, and community leaders who are promoting climate leadership and action. Each case study offers an inside look at why these individuals and organizations decided to lead on climate, how they developed their programs and initiatives, and what it took to overcome challenges along the way.  This week’s Climate for Health blog features an excerpt from Let’s Lead focusing on the first of our health leaders, Shanda Demorest and her organization Health Students for a Healthy Climate, who together are working to fill in the gaps on health professional engagement on climate and health.

Climate Campus: Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, Featuring Shanda Demorest

Health students for a healthy climate

Shanda Demorest, a nurse from the Allina Health system, first noticed a gap in engagement on climate and health while studying at the University of Minnesota. There she noticed there were no groups or initiatives addressing the links between health and climate. Demorest took on this challenge and opportunity to form what is now the Health Students for a Healthy Climate (HSHC) at the University of Minnesota.

The challenge of being new on campus

Demorest’s excitement and preparation for the program was met with challenges. Difficulties arose in finding an appropriate way to engage across the political spectrum. The group contacted legislators and policy makers and urged them to take action on clean energy to a safeguard health. “But it’s been a challenge to do some of that work in a gentle and bipartisan way, in a way that’s not going to offend anyone, particularly those with whom we want to partner with,” comments Demorest.

Let’s Lead on Climate

This led to another main hurdle— communication. Demorest explains, “We have struggled to answer the questions ‘How do we engage?’ ‘How do we re-engage?’ It’s easy for people to drop out of engagement when they have so many other things going on.”

Demorest emphasizes the importance of creating a baseline structure to overcome challenges that surface during program formation. Retroactively collecting data points and providing the metrics to help gain support, funding, and legitimacy were difficult. But, as Demorest highlighted, “If you don’t have the base, it’s easy for things to crumble.”

“We’ve done a lot of work to frame our communications, education, and work in a way that is hopeful, that helps people think, ‘I can make a difference, and you can make a difference.”

Blazing the trail for health students

To overcome communication challenges, Demorest says her group relied on ecoAmerica’s communication materials to navigate difficult waters and inspire others. Demorest also points out, “We’ve done a lot of work to frame our communications, education, and work in a way that is hopeful, that helps people think, ‘I can make a difference, and you can make a difference.’” In working from the ground up to form HSHC, communication was key, and designing a baseline for the group was also vital.

Demorest and her classmates decided the best way to gain legitimacy and become better organized was to launch a survey. This survey evaluated health student perceptions about climate change and its impacts on human health, and solicited feedback on their current and prospective courses covering this topic. Their results matched their expectations. Demorest says, “Our survey showed that students knew a little bit about climate change, and thought it was important and might have something to do with patient health, but were not getting climate curriculum content in any of their courses.”

The next steps involved identifying the right people at the university to utilize the survey results and to infuse climate change into the health curriculum. Demorest framed the results of the survey as an opportunity to create this introductory course. She proposed a mockup of the curriculum to the university’s curriculum committee. This process enabled HSHC to implement the curriculum as part of an incoming course at the University of Minnesota that all health students now take.

Recommendations

• Stay organized

• Reach out to solicit advice and help from decision makers, or those that help build support, for your programs or initiative.

• Host “lunch and learns” to engage key constituencies with program plans.

• Collaborate across disciplines for learning, leverage, and broader reach.

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 28-NOVEMBER 3

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

2017 Report of the Lancet Countdown: “Responding to climate change yields immediate & tangible benefits” 

The 2017 Report of the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change The Lancet

Climate Science Special Report of the fourth National Climate Assessment affirms human impacts on climate

Massive Government Report Says Climate Is Warming And Humans Are The Cause by Christopher Joyce, NPR

‘Browning’ caused by climate change may reduce UV rays’ ability to disinfect bodies of water, resulting in more disease

Climate Change May Bring ‘Browner’ Waters, More Disease by Mary Elizabeth Dallas, U.S. News and World Report

Perspectives

Renowned psychiatrist Robert Lifton notes how human perceptions on climate change are changing and finds reason for hope

Climate Change and the Human Mind: A Noted Psychiatrist Weighs In by Diane Toomey, Yale Environment 360

Climate change is the theme of this year’s annual meeting of the American Public Health Association during 2017’s Year of Climate Change and Health

Climate Change in the Air at APHA 2017 by Maureen Salamon, Medscape

Solutions

Trump administration moves to undo Obama-era Clean Power Plan even while acknowleding its benefits

Even Trump’s EPA says Obama’s climate plan would save thousands of lives each year by Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

The Natural History Museum of Utah uses creative new exhibit to engage public on climate change 

The Natural History Museum of Utah tackles climate change head-on with new exhibit — complete with flying goats by 
Emma Penrod, The Salt Lake Tribue

Get to know Climate Champion Melissa Ibarra!  Read on to learn how Melissa’s personal story influenced her desire to address health equity and how she uses mapping to help vulnerable populations face climate change

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Melissa Ibarra by Tim Kelly, Climate for Health

Resources

Our Let’s Lead on Climate guide is out!  Success stories & best practices from local leaders

Let’s Lead on Climate by ecoAmerica

New video created by ecoAmerica and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments highlights nurses’ role on climate and health 

“Nurses Caring for Climate and Health”: Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, in Partnership with Climate for Health, Releases New Video by Climate for Health and Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

“Nurses Caring for Climate and Health”: Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, in Partnership with Climate for Health, Releases New Video

Climate change is one of the most pressing public health problems of our time. But it is also one of the greatest opportunities to make positive changes to the health of Americans, as well as globally. Nurses are in every community and as the most trusted profession are well-positioned to take a lead in addressing this public health crisis.  In this week’s blog Cara Cook of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) introduces a new video produced by ANHE and Climate for Health and describes the tremendous opportunity nurses have to lead on climate and health.

As part of a new program designed to inspire and educate nurses on climate action, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments has joined with Climate for Health in producing a new video highlighting the need for nurses to band together in caring for climate and to ensure immediate health protections and a healthy future for all.

Nurses Caring for Climate and Health shares stories and experiences of nurses across specialties, describing how their practices and patients are impacted by climate change and what they are doing to move climate solutions forward.

As highlighted in the video, the threats posed by climate change to health are real, happening now, and require immediate and urgent action. These impacts include:   

  • Worsened air quality from harmful air pollutants, such as ground-level ozone, and airborne allergens contributing to worsening cases of asthma, increases in allergens and allergy symptoms, aggravation of chronic disease, and premature death.
  • Rising rates of heat stress exhaustion, heat stroke, and premature death resulting from increases in the intensity and frequency of heat waves.
  • Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation increase potential for spread of insect-borne diseases, such as Zika and Lyme disease.
  • More intense and severe droughts, heavier periods of precipitation, rising sea level, and severe storm surges contribute to flooding which can impact water and food supply.
  • Increase in the overall burden of mental health disorders worldwide resulting from extreme weather events and natural disasters.

While climate change may seem like a daunting topic, there are solutions to address this issue. And tackling climate change is an opportunity to protect health on a global scale. What an amazing opportunity! If the almost 4 million nurses in the US use their collective power to tackle this challenge, we will have an amazing positive impact on the health of our patients and communities. This new video provides examples of how nurses are already taking action in their practice settings to care for climate. Various health professions and organizations are also embracing this sentiment and stepping up to ensure that health is a key driver of climate solutions.

Among the nursing profession, ANHE is leading the charge to increase awareness and engage nurses in leading on climate action.  As the largest and most trusted healthcare profession, nurses are crucial to spreading the word about climate and health and building support for solutions. It is essential that nurses are informed on how health is impacted by climate change, engage others, lead by example in their practice settings and personal lives, and are part of the solution.

As part of the nursing profession response, ANHE, in partnership with Climate for Health, has joined with other national nursing organizations to form a Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health. The Collaborative is a combined effort among nursing organizations to build visible nursing leadership on climate as a health priority. ANHE is pleased to announce the first five nursing organizations to join on to this collaborative effort:  National Association of Hispanic Nurses, National Student Nurses’ Association, Association of Public Health Nurses, Service Employees International Union Nurse Alliance, and the Public Health Nursing section of the American Public Health Association. This nationwide network of nursing organizations will be instrumental to move the profession forward in addressing climate change. The main goals of the Collaborative work are to elevate climate as a visible health priority, create a climate literate nursing community, engage all stakeholders in connecting climate and health, and to build collective support and action for solutions.

Please, view our new video, share it, and join us in caring for climate. For more information on what nurses can do to address climate change check out the resources on ANHE or Climate for Health’s website. For further information on how nursing organizations can join the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health, contact Cara Cook at [email protected]

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Melissa Ibarra

During its Annual Meeting & Expo last fall, the American Public Health Association and Climate for Health’s parent organization, ecoAmerica, held the first-ever Learning Institute: “Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st-Century Climate for Health.”  (Our partners in this venture included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.) The goal: to help prepare participants to speak as leaders on climate and health impacts and solutions.

To expand the number of public health professionals who have the support they need to learn about the issues, ecoAmerica awarded Learning Institute scholarships to 10 individuals from all over the United States.  Boasting a diversity of backgrounds and experience, these “Climate Champions” will continue to work throughout the year to promote awareness of and engagement on climate change as a health priority. 

As part of this program, each month during 2017 the Climate for Health blog will publish a Q&A with one of our Climate Champions on how the Learning Institute inspired them and how they plan to integrate it into their work. Each blog will be keyed to the monthly theme of APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health. October’s theme is Vulnerable Populations, with a Focus on Children. (Answers are an edited composite of information shared with us.)

This month’s Champion is Melissa Ibarra.  Melissa received her MPH at the University of California, Davis.  During the course of her studies, she completed her practicum with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.  Her capstone project involved the study of hand hygiene biosecurity practices of fairgoers at California county fairs.  Additionally, she spent the 2015-2016 academic year working as a Graduate Student Assistant at the Cal-EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment.  Here she worked on risk assessment, including preparation of Hazard Identification Documents, literature review, summarization and synthesis of data.  During her first year as a Cal-EIS Fellow, Melissa worked at the Office of Health Equity where she assessed the impacts of climate change on California communities, particularly vulnerable populations. Melissa hopes to continue to address health inequities as a Cal-EIS Fellow through her work at the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).  

Melissa, thank you for your participation in last year’s APHA Learning Institute.  Please describe your experience at the Institute in one sentence.

The APHA Learning Institute was both informative and encouraging.

Given what you see in your work, why do you feel climate change is an important issue for health professionals?

Much of my interest in public health originates from my own experiences as a child. I grew up in East Palo Alto, CA. East Palo Alto lacked greenery, access to affordable and healthy foods, safety, and quality education. As a result, I attended school in Palo Alto, CA, which is largely known for its resources, opportunity and excellent education. Although I loved receiving my education from the Palo Alto School District, I noticed a significant difference in the 

 

livelihood of my neighborhood and that of where I went to school.  As a child, I couldn’t quite convey the turmoil that I felt for the difference in treatment between individuals in the two cities. I am still frustrated by the inequities faced by poorer, vulnerable, and some communities of color. Health professionals must remain cognizant of the multiple ways that climate change impacts every person and community.

Why were you interested in the Learning Institute course, what were your key takeaways, and how do you plan to apply what you’ve learned?

I wanted to learn how health professionals in the United States are defining the relationship between climate change and public health in order to avoid climate change/science jargon and language that triggers arguments.  I’ve applied what I’ve learned in written reports, incorporating language about climate change that’s understandable to a lay audience.

What are you currently doing to raise awareness and engagement around climate change?

Since the APHA Learning Institute, I have created maps that visualize the impacts of several climate change indicators (e.g., sea level rise, projected number of extreme heat days) in the State of California. Additionally, I made comparisons to assess whether some race groups are at a greater risk of experiencing some climate change indicators. Children and the elderly are typically some of the most impacted by climate change indicators. In addition, Latino and African American communities are more vulnerable to some climate change indicators, like extreme heat, since they are likely to occupy spaces that do not have tree canopy coverage. These maps and comparisons will provide guidance for local health departments on how to prepare for climate change, and inform California policies related to climate change.

What would you recommend to other health professionals who want to engage others on climate change?

Climate solutions can be as simple as increasing the number of open spaces and/or tree canopy coverage. Having safe, green spaces to admire and/or play in can have a lifelong positive impact on one’s mental health, especially that of a child’s. Keep an open mind as to what some may perceive as a climate change concern, and provide positive yet attainable goals for communities to improve the health of their immediate environment and that of their community members.

 

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 14-OCTOBER 20

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

Climate for Health Leadership Circle member Dr. Philip Landrigan discusses a new report published in The Lancet on  the health impacts of pollution.

Report: Pollution Kills 3 Times More than AIDS, TB And Malaria Combined by Susan Brink, NPR

Puerto Ricans have been turning to some potentially risky sources for drinking water following Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Ricans pump drinking water from hazardous-waste: report by Max Greenwood, The Hill

The effects of extreme heat on mental health are profound.

Extreme Heat Takes a Toll on Our Mental Health by Lauren Reiser, Natural Resources Defense Council

Politics

Despite the Trump Administration’s efforts, Al Gore remains hopeful about global progress on climate solutions.

Trump can’t undo progress on climate change, Gore tells Pittsburgh crowd by Natasha Lindstrom, TribLive.com

Solutions

Legislation in Maryland would expand the benefits of renewable energy solutions in the state.

More renewable energy will help the climate, health and economy by Karla Raettig, Maryland League of Conservation Voters for MarylandReporter.com

A new floating wind energy project off the coast of Scotland provides a model for other regions looking to expand where they can generate power.

See the World’s First Floating Wind Farm by Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic

This week is ecoAmerica’s American Climate Leadership Summit!  Over 250 leaders from health, faith, local communities and beyond are convening for cross-sector collaboration on ways to Take Up the Mantle in the face of federal level climate policy inaction.  Check out last year’s Summit report and this year’s list of speakers.

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 7-OCTOBER 13

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

As the Trump administration continues to deny the reality of our changing climate, an unusually wet winter and record hot summer result in unprecedented deadly wildfires in California

With No End In Sight, California’s Deadly Flames Called Climate Change ‘Fire Alarm’ by Julia Conley, Common Dreams

California Fires: Record Hot Summer, Wet Winter Created Explosive Mix by Georgina Gustin, Inside Climate News

Meanwhie, recent research continues to link warming temperatures with declining bee populations

Florida State Researchers Link Declining Bee Populations With Climate Change by Amy Green, WGCU NPR News

Perspectives

New polling shows a greater number of Americans are accepting the reality of climate change and its links to extreme weather

Poll: Americans blame wild weather on global warming by Seth Borenstein and Emily Swanson, Greenfield Recorder

2017 State of America on Climate by ecoAmerica

Reports

October 10th was World Mental Health Day.  Learn the many ways climate change intersects with mental health and wellbeing and strategies for lessening its impacts through ecoAmerica’s Mental Health and Our Changing Climate report, in collaboration with the American Psychological Association

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance by ecoAmerica

Solutions

“The links between the environmental and health impacts of our food are becoming ever more apparent. Intensive production and consumption has increased the availability of food, but it has also given rise to land degradation, climate change, water scarcity, and an epidemic of obesity.”

Understanding urban consumption will be critical in transforming food systems

Advocacy

Nurses and youth are calling on government officials, at the state and national level, to step up action in the face of daunting climate impacts

Nurses Call for Stepped Up Federal Effort on Fires by National Nurses United

Alaska youths are still fighting for a healthy climate future by Jode Sparks, Juneau Empire

October 12th was Children’s Environmental Health Day.  How will you continue to promote CEH throughout the year?

Children’s Environmental Health Day 2017 by Children’s Environmental Health Network

The 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit is less than two weeks away.  Read below for comments from American Public Health Association Executive Director and Summit Health Forum moderator Dr. Georges Benjamin on how Summit participants and everday citizens can take action on climate solutons

Q&A with 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit Speaker Dr. Georges Benjamin by Tim Kelly, Climate for Health, ecoAmerica

Q&A with 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit Speaker Dr. Georges Benjamin

ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit will take place at the National Press Club in Washington, DC October 25-26.  At the Summit, attendees from across the country will engage in cross-sectoral collaboration and discussion and hear from eminent health, faith, and local community leaders to determine how a concerned public can best “Take Up the Mantle” on climate leadership in the face of federal climate policy inaction.  On day two, attendees will hear from key leaders of national health associations, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, in a session moderated by Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), whose own efforts include promoting climate and health advocacy by declaring 2017 the Year of Climate Change and Health.  Read on below as Dr. Benjamin shares his brief thoughts on how Summit participants, APHA, and everyday citizens can step up their commitment on climate and health solutions.

What do you wish more Americans knew about climate change?

That it is here, now impacting our health today.  But also that we can do something about it.  First, you can work to reduce your own energy usage.  Secondly, you can help your employer reduce their energy usage at work.  Finally, you can work with your local elected officials to pass measures that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

What are current climate initiatives or efforts that inspire you/give you hope that we will effectively address climate change, even with the dearth of federal leadership on the issue?

Join the American Public Health Association’s efforts by going to www.apha.org/topics-and-issues/climate-change and ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health web page at https://ecoamerica.org/health/ to learn about the issues and to engage in our work.

What do you hope/believe the American Climate Leadership Summit will accomplish in moving the needle on climate action?

This Summit will catalyze our work across sectors to accelerate state and local actions on climate change.  I also hope it will convince our federal elected leaders to act more boldly to address both adaptation and mitigation.

The American Climate Leadership Summit is a tremendous opportunity to inspire cross-sector collaboration on climate solutions.  For more information on this year’s Summit please visit here.

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 30-OCTOBER 6

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

The Trump administration’s inaction on climate policy will most severely impact residents of Southern states, where many of his strongest supporters live.

States of Denial by Matthew Shaer, New Republic

Politics

In the face of federal level climate policy gridlock, Americans are increasingly demanding that their local governments step up on climate solutions. 

AP-NORC poll: Americans want local leaders to fight warming by Seth Borenstein and Emily Swanson, AP News

Advocacy

The 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit, with the theme “Taking Up the Mantle”, will be held October 25-26. This year’s speakers include leaders from the health, faith, and local communities sectors with the opportunity for cross-collaboration across sectors as well.  Check out ecoAmerica’s report and recommendations from last year’s Summit below.

American Climate Leadership Summit 2016 Recommendations Report by ecoAmerica

October is Children’s Environmental Health Month and October 12th is Children’s Environmental Health Day.  Learn ways you can promote children’s health through advocacy and prevention at this week’s blog.

October 12, 2017 – CEH Day: A Day to Stand Up for Children’s Environmental Health by Kristie Trousdale, Children’s Environmental Health Network

Solutions

More than ever, local solutions are key to addressing climate change.  Learn what local communities in Utah are doing to make a difference.

Commentary: Let’s not be afraid to talk about climate change by Sarah Wright and Dennis Haslam, The Salt Lake Tribune

Food policy, by encouraging changes in people’s eating habits, can be an important element of local climate action plans.

Why cities fighting climate change should take a look at food policy by Patrick Sisson, Curbed

“The homeowners who plan to stay face a choice: They can rebuild what they had before, knowing the warming climate will bring more devastating storms, or they can build for energy efficiency and resilience.”

Rebuilding After the Hurricanes: These Solar Homes Use Almost No Energy by Lyndsey Gilpin, Inside Climate News

October 5th was Energy Efficiency Day.  Learns ways you can save money by saving energy and promoting a more sustainable and healthy planet.

Energy Efficiency Day

October 12, 2017 – CEH Day: A Day to Stand Up for Children’s Environmental Health

October is Children’s Environmental Health Month and October 12th is Children’s Environmental Health Day, a day set aside to spread awareness of and promote action on preventing harmful environmental health exposures among children.  In preparation for Children’s Environmental Health Day, this week Climate for Health features a blog by Kristie Trousdale of Children’s Environmental Health Network.  Read on as Kristie discusses environmental health impacts among children and actions we all can take this month and beyond to promote and protect children’s health.

Now more than ever, the need to protect the health of the most vulnerable among us is paramount. Children are our most valuable resources, they represent the very future of our nation, and yet over the past few decades they have been facing increasing rates of chronic illness and developmental concerns linked to environmental exposures and our changing climate, including:

  • Over 6 million schoolchildren in the U.S. receive special education services
  • Those with an ADHD diagnosis (affecting 1 in 8 children) jumped by 43% between 2003 and 2011
  • CDC’s 2014 estimate of 1 in 68 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder was a 30% increase over the 2012 estimate
  • Asthma rates rose by almost 50% for black children between 2001 and 2009
  • One in five school-aged children has obesity
  • Incidence of childhood cancers has been increasing slightly over the past few decades

Decidedly few health and developmental problems are attributed solely to genetics, and mounting research underscores the importance of clean air, clean water, safe food and products, a healthy climate, and healthy places for a child’s best start in life. Yet the nation’s current legal, policy, and physical infrastructures are woefully inadequate to safeguard children’s environmental health, and the need for robust and united advocacy for preventive actions, is profound.

As a means to create and anchor a children’s environmental health movement and to develop a strong network of advocates, the Children’s Environmental Health Network established an annual Children’s Environmental Health Day (CEH Day), to be celebrated every second Thursday of October during Children’s Health Month. This year’s CEH Day is October 12, 2017.

CEH Day is a day of awareness, and a day of action. Anyone can show their commitment to protecting and improving children’s environmental health by:

We’ve provided the tools to make it easy to take action. Working together, we can safeguard the health of our children and that of future generations. How will you stand up for children’s environmental health?

The Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) is a national, multidisciplinary, nonprofit organization devoted to protecting the developing child from environmental health hazards and promoting a healthier environment. CEHN works to achieve this mission by stimulating and supporting preventive science, advocating for sound, child-protective policy, providing education and training to a variety of audiences, and raising awareness of children’s environmental health issues. 

For more information on the Children’s Environmental Health Network and Children’s Environmental Health Day, visit http://cehn.org.

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 23-SEPTEMBER 29

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

With 44% of residents of Puerto Rico living beneath the poverty line, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria highlights the island territory’s long-standing environmental justice concerns

‘People Are Dying’: Puerto Rico Faces Daunting Humanitarian Crisis by Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News

Puerto Rico has already seen significant outmigration over the past decade, as college graduates seek better opportunities in mainland U.S. cities.  Hurricane Maria is projected to increase that migration.

Puerto Ricans could be newest U.S. ‘climate refugees’ by Daniel Cusick and Adam Aton, E&E News

A common factor during this year’s intense storm season: as temperatures have risen so have rainfall totals 

One of the clearest signs of climate change in Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey was the rain by Umair Irfan, Vox

U.S. citizens are beginning to come into agreement on the impacts of climate change for extreme weather

Majority of Americans now say climate change makes hurricanes more intense by Emily Guskin and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

Perspectives

Millennials concerned about a future with climate change are making a difference through their consumer choices

Breaking: Millennials Think About Climate Change Differently Than Anyone Else by Emma Loewe, Mind Body Green

Politics

The U.S. House of Representatives Climate Solutions Caucus continues to bring a bipartisan voice to climate solutions

Climate Solutions Caucus Welcomes Six New Members; Membership Grows to 58 by Joanna Rodriguez, Press Release, Office of U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)

Solutions

Capturing evaporation may provide a brand new technology for renewable energy solutions

Evaporation could power most of the U.S. — study by Christa Marshall, E&E News

While there is no guarantee a peak in global carbon emissions has been reached, recent standstills in annual levels provide hope

Global carbon emissions stood still in 2016, offering climate hope by Damian Carrington, The Guardian

The Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education, an international forum for health professions schools committed to developing and instituting climate change and health curricula, now represents 125 schools and nearly 90,000 students

More than 100 schools sign on to teach health risks of climate change by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, EurekAlert!

This month’s Climate Champion is Aubree Thelen, a public health policy professional based in Louisiana.  In this week’s blog, Aubree discusses preparedness and the importance of community in withstanding climate impacts.

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Aubree Thelen by Tim Kelly, Climate for Health, ecoAmerica

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Aubree Thelen

During its Annual Meeting & Expo last fall, the American Public Health Association and Climate for Health’s parent organization, ecoAmerica, held the first-ever Learning Institute: “Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st-Century Climate for Health.”  (Our partners in this venture included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.) The goal: to help prepare participants to speak as leaders on climate and health impacts and solutions.

To expand the number of public health professionals who have the support they need to learn about the issues, ecoAmerica awarded Learning Institute scholarships to 10 individuals from all over the United States.  Boasting a diversity of backgrounds and experience, these “Climate Champions” will continue to work throughout the year to promote awareness of and engagement on climate change as a health priority. 

As part of this program, each month during 2017 the Climate for Health blog will publish a Q&A with one of our Climate Champions on how the Learning Institute inspired them and how they plan to integrate it into their work. Each blog will be keyed to the monthly theme of APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health. September’s theme is Extreme Weather. (Answers are an edited composite of information shared with us.)

This month’s Champion is Aubree Thelen.  Aubree is a policy professional who has worked on a variety of public health topics, including violence prevention, cancer, tobacco, obesity, complete streets and paid leave policy work. She also has expertise in leading and fostering community coalitions as a co-chair of the Greater New Orleans Healthy Communities Coalition (GNOHCC). Aubree earned her MPH from Tulane University and currently works on statewide cancer policy for Louisiana.

Aubree, please begin by describing for us in one sentence your experience at the APHA Learning Institute. 

The institute gave me insight into the wide array of professionals working on climate change and health, and how different disciplines and programs are approaching the topic. 

Given what you see in your work, why do you feel climate change is an important issue for health professionals?

Climate change will impact every community and it will do so in different ways. I can attest to this as someone who grew up in the Midwest but now live in the Mississippi Delta. Each area has their own specific concerns, like tick-borne illness in Wisconsin, to the annual hurricane season here. As health professionals, we are trusted messengers and should use our voices to amplify these topics and the overall far-reaching effects and impacts of climate change.  It is our job to be caretakers of the health of our communities, and there is no other coded agenda.

Why were you interested in the Learning Institute course?

I was interested in the course because of what I see in communities here inLouisiana, as well as my passion for environmental health as it relates to behavior and structures. Louisiana is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise as communities like Isle de Jean Charles are physically disappearing, but there is still hope for climate solutions and I feel health is a great way to approach the topic. 

What were your key takeaways from the course?

My key takeaways were that these issues are not intractable if we are able to come together on common goals, and speak in terms that everyone can understand. Often the work of connecting to already present issues in your community and using your own voice on a topic you care about can start the conversation. That is the first step and a necessary one. 

How do you plan to apply what you’ve learned? 

I’ve already used what I’ve learned to work on advocacy trainings for local coalitions.  Overall, the subject matter presented has increased my understanding of how climate change can be woven into many different topics, and I’ve used that in coalition-leading work as well.  Additionally, preparedness for cancer patients has been a topic that our program has worked to address during hurricane season.  Cancer patients are a particularly vulnerable population that can be displaced easily here in Louisiana by increased numbers and more powerful natural disasters and hurricanes, and having a planon how to continue treatment and care is crucial.

 

What are you currently doing to raise awareness and engagement around climate change? 

The current discourse on climate change in Louisiana can be disheartening, especially in the wake of hurricane season and recent extreme flood events that exceed living memory with their damage. Working the topic into conversation with health professionals that I work with on the GNOHCC is essential, as well as providing ways for them to connect to each other on the issue for the community. I also have been engaged in work on Complete Streets projects and policies around the state as a way to mitigate carbon emissions and connect communities, with opportunities for better storm water management.

What would you recommend to other health professionals who want to engage others on climate change?

Not all communities are the same when it comes to impacts of climate change. Knowing your community, who is already engaged, and what the biggest concerns are essential when thinking of framing your own concerns and starting that conversation. As a health professional, you are often trusted over others and for good reason: you are a caretaker and want what is best for the health of your community. Climate change and how it relates to other priorities is often an easier fit than you may guess, as long as you think through the connections and come to the community with the natural kindness that you possess. 

 

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]

Preparing for extreme weather to come

This is the Year of Climate Change and Health, a 12-month American Public Health Association-led initiative with monthly themes meant to raise awareness of and mobilize action on the health impacts of climate change. In September, APHA focuses on Extreme Weather. Climate for Health Program Director Leyla McCurdy was recently asked to contribute a blog post on the topic to APHA’s Public Health Newswire.  Below is her contribution.

With recent hurricanes and flooding events in Texas and Florida, the timing of this month’s Year of Climate Change and Health theme has never been more relevant for public health professionals, who must engage in educating the public about the health impacts of extreme weather.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in south Texas near Houston on August 25 as a Category 4 storm. It represented the most significant rainfall event in the area’s history since records have been kept, as reported by the World Meteorological Association.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so far more than 80 lives are known to have been lost in the intense flooding that followed, and thousands more people have been displaced or otherwise harmed by the after effects of the storm.

Before making landfall in Florida, Hurricane Irma experienced sustained winds of 185 mph for 37 hours, causing massive devastation in the US Virgin Islands. According to Colorado State University, this is the longest any storm has maintained that intensity globally since records have been kept. After striking the Caribbean, Irma made landfall in Florida on September 10 as a Category 4 storm, inundating cities from Key West to Jacksonville and causing damaging storm surges.

Planning for the future
Appropriate public health preparedness, response and recovery measures are the keys to resilience in the face of these impacts. It is extremely important that we heed the lessons learned from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in order to prevent and lessen the impacts of such events in the future. Because more extreme weather events will come.

According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, increased rainfall, wind speed and storm surge related to sea-level rise during extreme storms are all direct impacts of a warming planet. According to the World Meteorological Association, the impacts from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were almost certainly intensified by climate change and are projected to increase throughout the century.

In a study published in the journal Climatic Change, storm surge in particular is predicted to increase by 25 to 47 percent by the end of the 21st century compared to the end of the 20th century. As population centers grow and expand in coastal areas, the intensity of these increases in extreme weather only adds to the urgency.

Recognizing these impacts, Katharine Hayhoe, PhD, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech, explained in a recent interview on CNN, “As the oceans rise, there’s more force behind our storm surges and greater coastal areas are flooded on average than would have been 50 or 100 years ago.”

Public health on the front lines
As we’ve seen in Texas and Florida, these increases in extreme weather have profound implications for public health, including physical, mental and community health. Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, released by ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health program, describes the intersection of these impacts in detail.

Injuries suffered during or following extreme weather events can lead to reduced physical functioning and ultimately depression and other mental health impacts. Mental health impacts can, in turn, lead to disruptions in sleep, eating and exercise patterns and weakened immune functioning.

Abrupt changes in social fabric and community functioning and loss of property following extreme weather events are also significant mental stressors and can lead to a lost sense of security and social support.

Health professionals are uniquely qualified to address these impacts, and it is important that they are equipped with the tools to communicate effectively with peers, patients and the public on the links between climate change, extreme weather and health.

Climate for Health offers a variety of tools and resources for health professionals, including Let’s Talk Health and Climate: Communications Guidance for Health Professionals, as well as archived webinars, such as Mental Health and Our Changing Climate, presented in collaboration with the American Psychological Association during extreme weather month. Please visit Climate for Health for more information and to download these tools and resources.

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 16-SEPTEMBER 22

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD and others discuss the effects of extreme heat on the human body.

Human frontiers: How much heat can the body and mind take? by Zoe Tabary, Reuters

Though progress is being made and new laws are on the books, the country’s farmworkers continue to suffer from heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and heat-related death.

How heat kills farmworkers:And what’s being done about it by Ingfei Chen, Food and Environment Reporting Network

Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH at the 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics Annual Conference and Exhibition: From ragweed to sea-level rise to Zika virus, climate change is impacting the health of children.

Action Needed on ‘Climate Crisis’ to Protect Children’s Health by Melissa Jenco, AAP News

Public Health researchers are increasingly looking at the connections between reproductive health and climate change.

Climate Change and Women’s Health: New Studies Find Overlooked Links by Antony Martel, New Security Beat

Politics

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, endorses a price on carbon, breaking with Republican establishment.

Republican Senator Endorses ‘Price on Carbon’ to Fight Climate Change by Justin Worland, Time

Solutions

Climate Week 2017 in New York City and ecoAmerica’s upcoming American Climate Leadership Summit show the time is never more appropriate for cross-sector collaboration on climate solutions.

Sustainability City: Climate Week Engages Stakeholders Across Borders by ecoAmerica

Climate Week NYC and ecoAmerica’s American Climate Leadership Summit: Cross-sector Collaboration on Climate Solutions by Tim Kelly, Climate for Health

Communications

In a recent guest blog for the American Public Health Association’s Public Health Newswire, Climate for Health Program Director Leyla McCurdy discusses the health impacts of extreme weather and the importance of preparedness and communication to lessen and prevent future impacts.

Preparing for extreme weather to come by Leyla McCurdy, Climate for Health

Climate Week NYC and ecoAmerica’s American Climate Leadership Summit: Cross-sector Collaboration on Climate Solutions

This weekend marks the conclusion of Climate Week 2017, which coincided with the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City.  A project of the Climate Group, Climate Week exists to bring together leaders from “business, government and civil society in support of the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”  While representatives of the current U.S. presidential administration continue to waiver on their responsibility to lessen the harmful impacts of a warming climate, leaders of other nations and concerned citizens and leaders from multiple sectors within our own nation are taking up the mantle of leadership on climate solutions.

Health professionals are also increasingly speaking out, sharing their expertise on the impacts of climate change for the public’s health.  While Climate Week is not specifically health-focused, health professionals can take advantage of the lessons learned to highlight their expertise on the impacts of climate change on health and emphasize the importance of cross-sector collaboration with the leaders of cities, states, corporations, and NGOs who have been represented.  

Reflecting the spirit of Climate Week, ecoAmerica is also working to bridge sector divides.  This year’s American Climate Leadership Summit, to be held Oct. 25-26 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., will bring together over 300 leaders from the health, faith, local communities, higher education, and business communities to collaborate on best practices to activate popular engagement on climate solutions.  Each year, ecoAmerica produces a report of recommendations based on discussions at the Summit for leaders to consider in their engagement efforts on climate change in the coming year.  Below is a sample of last year’s recommendations and steps ecoAmerica and our Climate for Health partners are taking in order to “Take Up the Mantle” on solutions to climate change.

1. Bring climate change to the mainstream.  Ensure all health professionals configure their work through a lens of climate solutions, environmental health, and sustainability.

Over the past year Climate for Health has expanded its partnerships and collaborations with health professionals representing a wide range of disciplines and constituencies, from pediatricians to nursing professionals.  We are working with national health associations to integrate a climate and health focus into their messaging and daily practice in order to inspire and engage their members and ultimately the American public with whom they interact.

2. Increase climate and health literacy.  Provide professional education on climate and health impacts, how best to engage others, specific actions to lead by example, and the health co-benefits of climate solutions.

Through webinars, trainings at conferences, and newly created resources, Climate for Health has enhanced institutional knowledge on the links between climate change and health.  Reports and webinars, such as Let’s Talk Health and Climate: Communication Guidance for Health Professionals, and Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance provide cutting edge research and guidance for health professionals to refer to as they engage with and make a difference in their communities.

3. Make climate-related health impacts personal with storytelling and first-hand accounts.  Create a multimedia public campaign sharing how healthcare providers are already confronting climate-related health issues, and how climate solutions have health benefits for patients.

Climate for Health is leading the way on amplifying the health professional voice on climate solutions.  Through videos and other multi-media resources we are providing doctors, nurses, and public health practitioners who are committed to addressing climate change a venue to reach out to their colleagues and demonstrate and model climate leadership and engagement.

4. Coordinate leaders to develop collective action.  Provide a forum for further development of the strategies identified above and support the pursuit of shared goals, collective action, and engagement within and across sectors.

Through engagement with health association leadership in our Climate for Health Leadership Circle, ecoAmerica is providing a forum for leaders to discuss and act on solutions that resonate with their membership and across health disciplines.  Leadership Circle members come together on a quarterly basis to update each other on partner activites, discuss opportunities to enhance their collective impact, and provide recommendations for future climate action

5. Facilitate cross–sector collaboration.  Provide structured opportunities for the health sector to explore strategic collaboration with ecoAmerica’s leaders and partners from other sectors.

The annual American Climate Leadership Summit provides the space for leaders to come together cross-sectorally to discuss climate solutions.  This year’s agenda includes speakers from the health, faith, and communities sectors as well as forums for those in attendance to learn from each other’s unique disciplinary perspective and cultivate next step solutions in the face of federal government inaction on climate policy.  Please see here for information on registration and this year’s agenda.

The lessons of Climate Week 2017 and ecoAmerica’s and our partners’ efforts are clear.  As leaders from across disciplines continue to step up and act on climate change, the pressure is now on world leaders to heed the message and work to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for all.

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 9-SEPTEMBER 15

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Advocacy

Cara Cook of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, a Climate for Health partner, discusses the role of nurses in addressing climate change

The Vital Role of Nurses in Addressing Climate Change Nursing Notes, Johnson and Johnson

Solutions

Public health researchers demonstrate how city planning can be used to make cities more climate resilient

Study on climate change shows how cities can prioritize public health Science Codex

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, more than 300 national, state, and local groups have endorsed the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future (OFF) Act, proposed legislation that’s been called “the strongest climate bill ever.”

As Nation Reels from Disasters, 300+ Groups Endorse Sweeping Climate Bill by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

“When it comes to mitigating the worst impacts of climate change, keeping excess carbon out of the atmosphere is the prime target for improving the health of our planet. One of the best ways to do that is thought to be locking more of that carbon into the soil that grows our food.”

New Study Shows Organic Farming Traps Carbon in Soil to Combat Climate Change by Lela Nargi, Civil Eats

Planetary Health

Too often the environmental and health sectors are “siloed” and do not collaborate for climate solutions.  The field of Planetary Health helps to bridge these gaps.

Health at a Planetary Scale by Howard Frumkin and Sam Myers

VIDEO: The climate-health connection Politico

Resources

During Climate for Health partner American Public Health Association’s Extreme Weather Month, see additional ecoAmerica and Climate for Health resources on the connections between climate change, health, and extreme weather

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance ecoAmerica

Lessons from Harvey: the Need to Lead ecoAmerica

Communicating Compassion: Supporting Mental Health Before and After a Storm ecoAmerica
 

 

 

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 2-SEPTEMBER 8

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

After an unusually wet winter, 2017 wasn’t expected to be an intense year for wildfires in the American West.  However, the summer’s recording-breaking heat has changed that.

Has Climate Change Intensified 2017’s Western Wildfires? by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic

Advocacy

As the EPA reconsiders the Obama Administration’s 54.5 mpg by 2025 fuel standards, environmental and public health activists prepare to give the Trump Administration an earful.

Environmental and health groups gear up to defend Obama EPA’s gas-mileage standards by Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

On Friday, September 8th, public health professionals participated in a webinar discussing the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance’s State Policy Initiative.  As the federal government waivers, state-level climate advocacy is needed more than ever.

U.S. Climate and Health Alliance State Policy Initiative

Communications

The results of ecoAmerica’s American Climate Perspectives Survey for September show how both “doomsday” and hopeful messaging can motivate the American public on climate action.

Climate Doomsday or A Livable Future? Americans Motivated by Both by ecoAmerica

Diesel exhaust is bad for our health and bad for our climate.  But humor can help.

Video: Climate Change, Diesel Fuel, Disasters, Health, and…Humor?? by Joylette Portlock, Huffington Post

More than ever, events like Hurricane Harvey require health professionals to take action on climate.  ecoAmerica provides the communication tools and resources to help them do so,

What Can Health Professionals Learn from Events Like Hurricane Harvey? by Tim Kelly, ecoAmerica

Solutions

U.S. Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah breaks the mold by speaking out on climate solutions.

Love Talks Clean Environment, Climate Solutions by Judy Fahy, kuer.org

Barry Parkin, Mars’ chief sustainability officer: “There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don’t think we’re getting there fast enough collectively. We’re trying to go all in here.”

‘We’re trying to go all in’: Chocolate giant Mars pledges $1 billion to fight climate change by Oscar Williams-Grut, Business Insider

Sustainable alternatives offer solutions to traditional meat consumption.

Meaty challenge: What’s on the menu for future cities? by Sophie Hares, Thomson Reuters Foundation News

In the face of mounting evidence, why can’t politicians accept scientific predictions about climate change?

We Don’t Deny Harvey, So Why Deny Climate Change? by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

More resources…

Given recent events and the American Public Health Association’s designation of September as Extreme Weather month during its Year of Climate Change and Health, information on the mental health impacts of climate change is more relevant than ever.

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance by Susan Clayton, Christie Manning, Kirra Krygsman, and Meighen Speiser, American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica

What Can Health Professionals Learn from Events Like Hurricane Harvey?

The American Public Health Association (APHA) has identified 2017 as the Year of Climate Change and Health.  APHA has further assigned each month of 2017 a different theme reflecting the impacts climate change has for health and wellbeing.  At this critical time for the future of climate change politics and our society, these designations are never more timely and relevant.  September’s theme is Extreme Weather and with the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and the fears and warnings associated with the impending arrival of Hurricane Irma on Florida’s shores, this specific theme is also never more prescient.

While climate scientists consistently warn against ascribing individual extreme weather events to climate change, as Houston was inundated by flood waters by a hurricane that intensified as it approached Texas’s coastline many scientists noted the role climate change can play in increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.  Hurricane Harvey itself was in fact so unique and destructive because it intensified as it approached Houston due to Gulf of Mexico waters that were warmer than in the past.

But while it is important to remain sensitive to the suffering and loss wrought by events like Harvey, it is equally important- and our responsibility as health professionals and as a society more broadly- to at the same time reflect, discuss, and learn the lessons of events such as these, in order to lessen the prospect of future suffering.  With evidence of increases in the intensity and frequency of major extreme weather events reflecting scientific predictions of climate change, health professionals in particular are compelled to shed light on these linkages and the impacts they have for health.  To do so, by educating the public and advocating among policymakers, is to engage in an ultimate act of prevention that seeks to address climate change at its source: our attitudes and resultant individual and societal-level behaviors that produce unsustainable levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Impacts

The health impacts associated with an event like Harvey are widespread and interrelated, and highlight the relevance of health professional engagement on climate solutions.  These impacts and strategies for building resilience and supporting individuals and communities in times of weather crises are highlighted in ecoAmerica’s Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance report, produced in collaboration with the American Psychological Association.  For example, as discussed in the report, injuries and other impacts to physical health during and in the aftermath of such events can lead to mental health impacts, such as depression, while breakdowns in social cohesion, community functioning, loss of property, and disruptions in community infrastructure can lead to and compound the effect of stressful experiences as well.  Mental health impacts can in turn lead to or worsen physical health impacts through changes in patterns of sleep, eating, and exercise and reduced immune function.

         Source: Mental Health and Our Changing Climate, 2017, ecoAmerica

These above impacts can be worsened when they occur among populations that were in a position of enhanced vulnerability before an extreme weather event strikes.  For example, while studies measuring wellbeing and resilience before and after extreme weather events are limited due to the unpredictability of these events, in a study of a low income young female population in post-Katrina New Orleans, levels of social support before and after the storm predicted levels of health and wellbeing following the event.  Populations vulnerable due to low income status, old age, pre-existing medical conditions or disability may also be disproportionately impacted by reduced mobility and ability to avoid or cope with extreme weather impacts.  And each of these above impacts are, of course, enhanced when they occur in conjunction with other impacts of extreme rainfall and flooding, such as exposure to chemicals and pathogens in contaminated flood waters and food supplies and the potential for the spread of mold and infectious disease following such events.

Resources

Given the credibility health professionals possess on knowledge relating to the health impacts of extreme weather events, all they need are the tools and resources to amplify their voice, lead by example, and elucidate the connections between these events and climate change.  As we were reminded by ecoAmerica blog contributor Miranda Spencer following extreme flooding in North Carolina related to Hurricane Matthew last fall, health professionals have several opportunities to make a difference.  According to Miranda, these include:

  • If you are doctor or nurse treating people for a condition related to a storm or flood, this may be a perfect pivot to talk to your patients about climate change: building awareness of its effects on a personal and local level, and how people can protect both their own health and our climate through positive behavior changes.
  • If you are a hospital administrator, take a look at ways to green up your everyday operations through money-saving practices – such as energy efficiency and waste reduction. Review  and check the systems you have in place for carrying on during storms, such as back-up generators and extra water supplies.
  • Share stories and ideas with your peers in the health care professions on how to respond to issues related to large storms, and help them to make the connections between climate, weather, and health solutions in their work and with the people they serve.
  • If you’re in public health, you can spend a few hours working with boards or committees involved with climate change preparation. For example, since Hurricane Katrina touched New Orleans, the city has revised its master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane protection to account for ongoing sea level rise. Expert help is needed.
  • Knowledgeable professionals can also speak out at public hearings and write letters to the editor or op-eds sharing medical knowledge that links extreme weather with health effects. You can also provide tips for taking actions that help protect both health and climate.

Several ecoAmerica research reports offer insightful information and proven guidance to aid health professionals in facilitating such discussions. These guides include Climate for Health’s Let’s Talk Health & Climate: Communication Guidance for Health Professionals, Beyond Storms and Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change (written in collaboration with the American Psychological Association), and Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance referenced above.  Webinars on these topics are also available.  On September 20th, Climate for Health in collaboration with the American Psychological Association will be hosting a webinar focusing on Mental Health and Our Changing Climate, our most recent report.

Health professionals possess the credibility and, more than ever, the appropriate tools to be leaders in discussions on climate solutions.  As recent events have shown, the need for their leadership has never been more necessary.

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]

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Advocacy

“The right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”

Cities, states, and kids sue to stop climate change by Brent Gregston, WhoWhatWhy

Solutions

Tesla program promotes the co-benefits of solar power for low-income communities, including reduced pollution, affordable energy, and job opportunities.

Tesla donates solar panels to power 150 US low-income households by Matt D’Angelo, TeslaRati

In the 1950s, Farmers came together over their concern about the impact of nuclear testing on weather.  Can they do the same over climate change?

How farmers convinced scientists to take climate change seriously by Justin McBrien, The Washington Post

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey’s intensification as it made land fall was unprecedented.  How much was climate change to blame?

Did Climate Change Intensify Hurricane Harvey? by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic

Local leaders and developers weren’t prepared for Harvey’s aftermath in Houston.  Here are four steps they can take to withstand future flooding disasters.

Analysis: Four things Houston-area leaders must do to prevent future flooding disasters by Kiah Collier and Neena Satija, The Texas Tribune

Despite rising flood waters, Houston-area hospitals continued to operate.

EHRs at Houston hospitals remain resilient against Hurricane Harvey by Greg Slabodkin, Health Data Management

Just before Hurricane Harvey, the Trump Administration revoked bi-partisan Obama-era standard requiring hospitals and other federal infrastructure projects to factor in scientific projections for the impacts of climate change, such as flooding.

Just Before Harvey, Trump Admin Revoked Rules Requiring New Infrastructure to be Climate Resilient by Free Speech TV

Well-informed discussions about climate change are essential following events like Hurricane Harvey.

The media today: Harvey and climate change, a discussion worth having by Pete Vernon, Columbia Journalism Review

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 20-AUGUST 26

Each week, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

Climate change’s human connections have always made the issue most compelling.  New evidence is making it even more so.

Climate Change’s Health Impacts Have a Growing Stockpile of Evidence by Amy Westervelt, Climate Liability News

A new study shows pathogens are already spreading as a result of climate change.  And the risks are only increasing.

These Infections Are Likely to Get Worse as the Climate Changes by Cynthia Wallentine, Invisiverse

Politics

The Trump administration disbands federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning.

The Trump administration just disbanded a federal advisory committee on climate change by Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

Local Solutions

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales calls on all municipal facilities to be powered with renewable energy by 2025.

Mayor sets sights on 100 percent clean energy future by Tripp Stelnicki, Santa Fe New Mexican

Juneau, Alaska, on the front lines of climate change, passes climate resolution.

Assembly passes climate change resolution, but no specific mention of Paris Accord by Alex McCarthy, JuneauEmpire.com

Ohio is a national leader in distributed wind energy and it’s total capacity is only growing.

Ohio ranked in Top 10 for distributed wind energy by Chad Felton, The News-Herald

Sustainability

Trees not only reduce energy consumption, pollution levels, energy consumption, and generally make cities more livable, but they have significant economic impacts as well.

Trees Can Save A City $500 Million Every Year by Katharine Schwab, Co.Design

Farmers in New England are seeing the co-benefits of harvesting solar energy.

For New England Farmers Looking To Make Ends Meet, The Sun Provides A Harvest by Patrick Skahill, NPR

Health Professionals

Latino populations experience disproportionate health impacts from climate change.  Hispanic physicians are making a difference.

Hispanic physicians address the health effects of global warming by Eileen Mignoni, Yale Climate Connections

U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contributors Gary W. Yohe, Ph.D., professor of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University, and Kristie L. Ebi, Ph.D., professor of global health and environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington, encourage the health professional voice in climate change advocacy.

Doctors must respond to changes in the politics of climate change by Gary Yohe and Kristie Ebi, STAT

 

 

American Climate Leadership Summit Amplifies the Health Professional Voice on Climate Solutions

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]

 

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 13-AUGUST 19

Every Monday, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Conservation

The Trump administration has ordered a review of the status of 27 national monuments, including four in Arizona, but Arizonans overwhelmingly support maintaning these open spaces according to a recent poll.

Poll: Arizona overwhelmingly supports protecting land, air, climate by Brandon Loomis, The Republic

Impacts

The combination of poverty and extreme weather, such as drought, provides duanting mental health challenges for farmers in India.

Study: Farmer Suicides Increase Because of Climate Change by Katy Daigle, Associated Press

The National Institutes of Health has more information about what aspects of human health are affected by climate.

How Climate Change Could Already Be Affecting Your Health by Gillian Mohney, Healthline

Politics

A carbon tax provides a market-based solution, and opportunity, for pro-climate conservatives in the United States.

The Republicans Trying to Fight Climate Denial in Their Own Party by Cameron Harley, Vice

Solutions

From 2007 to 2015, wind and solar energy and emissions regulations saved an astounding number of lives in the U.S.

US wind and solar power helped prevent up to 12,700 deaths by Ian Johnston, Independent

Water utilities are seeing the co-benefits for water supply and clean energy of increasingly less expensive floating solar panels.

Floating Solar Power: A New Frontier for Green-Leaning Water Utilities by Matt Weiser, News Deeply

Supermarkets use a tremendous amount of energy for cold food storage.  An EPA program on the chopping block has helped them cut back and conserve.

Cold Food, Hot Air by John Fialka, Scientific American

Nearly 30 years ago humanity came together to fix the ozone layer- an action that had co-benefits for climate change as well.  Can we come together now to solve the climate crisis?

We Saved The Ozone. Here’s How We Can Save Everything Else by Kate Ryan, Good

Is your city among the country’s most sustainable?

America’s Most (and Least) Sustainable Cities, Ranked by Teresa Mathew, CityLab

Technology

A new startup is using biotechnology to help scientists and farmers adapt our food supply to a changing climate.

Boston Startup Hopes Its Seeds Will Help Farmers Cope With Climate Change by Asma Khalid, WBUR

New Report and Survey Demonstrate Evolving Perceptions on Climate Change

With inaction on climate policy at the federal level, hope can at times be at a low ebb for those who care about public health and the environment.  However, in a recent article on Phys.org, a new report by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and Climate for Health partner George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication is discussed, showing how public perceptions of the problem of climate change are evolving.  According to the report, only 13 percent of Americans believe that climate change is not happening while 30 percent believe that if it is happening it is mostly caused by natural, as opposed to human, causes.  This is an improvement compared to four years ago when 23 percent of Americans believed climate change was not happening and 33 percent believed it was caused mostly by natural causes.

In addition to the report, an informal survey conducted by the social media site Reddit earlier this year also provided some insight into the reasons for people’s resistance to accepting that climate change is happening as well as reasons why people change their perspective on the issue.  Among the reasons for people’s resistance are societal pressures from family and community.  But other reasons relate to the economic influence of those who have an interest in denying climate change’s impacts. 

However, evidence from the survey also shows that these barriers are able to be overcome through improved knowledge about climate change through both formal education and influential sources in the media, such as popular and effective documentary programming like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and the Planet Earth series.  Awareness of the consensus among climate experts can also be an effective component as one survey participant shared, “I realized that many of the other people denying anthropogenic climate change were being funded by the fossil fuel industry and that almost everyone else—most importantly, the vast majority of climate scientists—agreed on the human cause.” 

Often, however, the most effective strategy for influencing someone’s perspective on climate change is not to focus explicitly on the issue itself but on the common ground one has with the person being influenced- as well as on solutions that reflect common values.  For example, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, suggests connecting with people by “identifying what you have in common, then connecting the dots between what both of you already care about and the issue of climate change.” And Ed Maibach, director of the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication, emphasizes “if the goal is to build public support for policies that will limit climate change, it may be more effective to simply give a range of reasons why the policy makes sense, including but not limited to—and not leading with—climate changes.”

In the end, as the experts agree and as Climate for Health’s own communication resources make clear, taking a positive approach by emphasizing the shared benefits of solutions and meeting people where they are can often be the most effective approach to meeting the challenges posed by our changing climate.

For more information on the Yale University and George Mason University report and the Reddit survey, as well as expert opinion on influencing perceptions on climate change, please read the full article on Phys.org here.

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]

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 6-AUGUST 12

Every Monday, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

In rural India, climate change exacerbates drought and existing gender inequality and highlights the importance of land-ownership for women’s rights

Landless and widowed women in south India bear brunt of drought by Rina Chandran, Reuters

Solutions

While in the United States new commitments and job training programs lead to co-benefits for local solutions and affordable renewable energy options

Nonprofit installs solar panels on roofs of lower-income households — free by Mary Hui, The Washington Post

Orlando commits to 100 percent renewable energy citywide by 2050 by Monivette Cordeiro, Orlando Weekly

Alliant Energy seeks to expand wind power operation in Iowa by Logan Wroge, Wisconsin State Journal

And applications of new technology and old knowledge increase adaptive capacity

How sea-rise ready is your home or business? Startup offers the lowdown by Nancy Dahlberg, Miami Herald

‘Spongy’ Soil Can Help Farmers Combat Climate Change by Georgina Gustin, Inside Climate News

And a rare celestial event highlights the growing importance of solar power- and a new role for natural gas

The Eclipse Will Give Us a Glimpse of the Future of Natural Gas by Chris Martin, Mark Chediak, and Naureen S. Malik, Bloomberg

Advocacy

Meanwhile, experts, new and well established, call for national leadership on climate action

These youth of color are organizing to address climate change by Jenna Gray, PBS Newshour

Former EPA head calls on Trump to heed the climate science by Michael Casey, The Hour

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 30-AUGUST 5

Every Monday, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

As this weeks stories on climate impacts make clear, the damage caused by fossil fuels is all-encompassing: from effects on the individual health of those involved in production to continent-wide alterations in climate and lifeways.

Study finds human influence in the Amazon’s third 1-in-100 year drought since 2005 by John Abraham, The Guardian

Loss of Fertile Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa by Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times

NPR Continues To Find Hundreds Of Cases Of Advanced Black Lung by Howard Berkes, NPR

Solutions

But the above impacts also throw into stark relief the health benefits of curbing climate change and provide new opportunities for action at the national and state level- and within tribal communities, while two new partnerships in ecoAmerica’s Path to Positive Communities program remind us of the importance of local politics for climate action.

Here’s where climate change could generate toxic air pollution by Nsikan Akpan, PBS Newshour

The Largest Wind Farm in the U.S. Is Growing in Oklahoma. It’s a Sign of the Times by Bobby Magill, Climate Central

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority opens first large-scale solar farm Noel Lyn Smith, Farmington Daily Times

ecoAmerica Launches Local Climate Engagement Programs with National League of Cities & Local Government Commission by ecoAmerica

Advocacy

Finally, climate solutions are incomplete without consideration of issues of justice- and gender equity- while artists evoke emotional responses in their work to bring about change, and a Climate for Health partner provides health professionals with new tools for climate advocacy.

3 Very Real Wonder Women Leading The Way To Climate Justice by Sarah Hurtes, Refinery29

These Artists Are Trying to Make Climate Change Visceral by Stephanie Granada, Outside

New State Policy Initiative provides the antidote to federal climate policy gridlock by Tim Kelly, ecoAmerica

New State Policy Initiative provides the antidote to federal climate policy gridlock

As the federal government waivers and remains gridlocked on policy to protect the public’s health from the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, this week marked the launch of a new initiative by the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance, a Climate for Health partner, to tap into the tremendous power that health professionals possess to inspire change.  Utilizing the powerful health voice, the Alliance’s new State Policy Initiative shifts attention from gridlock at the federal level to state legislatures as venues for climate policy. 

The need for the State Policy Initiative is simple: the administration’s rollback of federal efforts to address climate change demands that more action and attention shift to state legislatures.  States have been, and can continue to lead the way on climate change, but they can also be venues for detrimental legislation.  As respected and credible voices within their communities, health professionals play an essential role in helping policymakers and the public better understand the health impacts of climate change and co-benefit opportunities of climate action- and thus ensuring that the health voice is heard in state policy decisions.  Until now, the health message—that climate change is our biggest health crisis and that we need to act now—has been largely untapped in the climate change conversation.  The State Policy Initiative and the tools provided by programs like Climate for Health and our partners enable health professionals to more effectively communicate change and fill the void left by our national leadership.

“You can use these tools towards several important goals: to inform policy makers that climate change is a critical health issue; to raise the health voice in state discussions about climate change policy decisions; strengthen support for climate action at the state level; and to ultimately integrate health and health equity into state climate policies.”

The U.S. Climate and Health Alliance and its partners kicked off its Initiative this week with a coordinated social media campaign to introduce the action to health professionals.  Along with Climate for Health, organizations across the country took to Twitter and Facebook, and otherwise informed their networks, to make the case for health professional involvement in climate action.  The goals of the campaign are clear: to provide health professionals with tools to advocate at the state level on the need for proactive climate policy.

Currently, the State Policy Initiative is focusing on action on three main topic areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency, and transportation.  And it is doing so by putting the necessary tools for climate advocacy directly in the hands of health professionals.  On its central online hub can be found factsheets on each of these main topic areas as well as other advocacy tools, such as: primers on the basics of climate change and health equity, Policy 101 resources on the policymaking process and the necessity of the health voice, strategies for communicating with policymakers, tips and templates for writing op-eds and letters to the editor, and links to databases tracking climate-related legislation.  And as the Initiative expands, it will cover new topics, such as food systems; urban greening and green infrastructure; and fossil fuels extraction, storage, and transport.  Further, the initiative is not limited to legislative advocacy but also includes strategies for influencing policy through the regulatory process among state agencies- additional tools for this purpose will be introduced as the initiative continues.

(above: the State Policy Initiative model, U.S. Climate and Health Alliance)

Finally, the next steps in the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance’s State Policy Initiative involve YOU: you can become more informed about climate and health impacts and communications strategies using the tools provided by Climate for Health and the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance, you can visit the resources available through the State Policy Initiative’s online hub, and you can use these resources to take action among your colleagues, with your local newspaper, and by communicating with state legislators and other policymakers.  Together, as health professionals, these tools can assist you in speaking your voice as the most trusted source of information on the links between climate change and health.

(Note: This blog is a composite of information provided by the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance and the author’s own words.)

 

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]

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 23-JULY 29

Every Monday, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

As scientists become increasingly aware of how interdependent- and prone to drought and famine- the global food system is, residents and city officials fight against time to save a world treasure from sinking beneath rising seas

“Maize, rice, wheat: alarm at rising climate risk to vital crops” by Robin McKie, The Guardian

“Climate change challenges sinking city of Venice” by Christopher Livesay, PBS NewsHour

Solutions

Meanwhile progress continues as advances in technology and new discoveries expand the reach of renewable energy and sustainable transportation solutions

“Sea change: Gulf Coast wind farms become vital to Texas energy mix” by Ryan Maye Handy, Houston Chronicle

“Tesla CEO Elon Musk Says Regular Cars Will be Like Horses in 20 Years” by Nick Lucchesi, Inverse.com

And local communities continue to take responsibility for their carbon emissions and the waste they produce while the federal government waivers

“New Jersey Is Cutting Food Waste to Help the Climate” by Bobby Magill, Climate Central.  (“…if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest climate polluter after China and the U.S., according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.”)

“Fighting climate change can boost jobs, cut inequality – New York mayor” by Sophie Hares, Reuters

As a glimmer of hope for bipartisan solutions persists

“Is a Conservative Climate Movement Heating Up?” by Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News

Advocacy

And Americans- and a familiar voice- continue to speak “Truth to Power”

“Minneapolis Joins Other Cities In Posting Deleted EPA Climate Change Data”, CBS Minnesota

“‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ Is An Effective, Cautiously Optimistic, ‘I Told You So'” by Bob Mondello, NPR

“Al Gore Invites Faith Leaders to Openly Discuss the ‘Inconvenient’ Reality of Climate Change” by Nichole Tucker, Blessed Tomorrow, ecoAmerica

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 16-JULY 22

Every Monday, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

As heavy flooding impacts northern Illinois and extreme climate conditions result in the spread of wildfires in California and other western states, another story explores a case study of the intersection of pollution and poverty in the south.

“Thousands of Illinois homes swamped by flood waters as rivers keep rising”, by Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters

“Extreme And Aggressive’ California Wildfires Force Thousands To Evacuate”, by Laurel Wamsley, NPR

“How is pollution connected to race and inequality?”, by Ashley Ahearn and Ashley Cleek, KUOW.org.  (“The smog,” Powell said, “felt like a light snow falling or like someone had blown on a billion dandelions. When it got on your clothes, you’d itch all over.”)

And meanwhile, climate change and landuse decisions contribute to the spread of deadly hantavirus in Brazil and worldwide.

“Brazil risks rodent-borne Hantavirus rise due to sugarcane, climate change – scientists”, by Sophie Hares, Reuters

Solutions

But local action and new technology ensure the viability of a renewable energy future.

“Town approves $170,000 solar array project”, Associated Press

“Wind, solar do not harm power grid reliability-draft U.S. study”, by Timothy Gardner, Reuters

While governments from France to indigenous communities in the United States are taking responsibility.

“Climate scientists flock to France’s call”, by Declan Butler, nature.com

“Threatened by climate change, Native American tribes to honor Paris Accord”, by Lindsey Gilpin, Newsweek

And new efforts are underway to hold fossil fuel companies and the current administration accountable.

Climate Liability News

Communications

Finally, check out this month’s “Meet a Climate Champion” blog to see how ecoAmerica is doing its part to educate scientists and health professionals, like PhD student and food and nutrition researcher Jason Craig, on becoming better communicators on climate and health.

“Get to know a Climate Champion: Jason Craig”, by Tim Kelly, ecoAmerica

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Jason Craig

During its Annual Meeting & Expo last fall, the American Public Health Association and Climate for Health’s parent organization, ecoAmerica, held the first-ever Learning Institute: “Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st-Century Climate for Health.”  (Our partners in this venture included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.) The goal: to help prepare participants to speak as leaders on climate and health impacts and solutions.

To expand the number of public health professionals who have the support they need to learn about the issues, ecoAmerica awarded Learning Institute scholarships to 10 individuals from all over the United States.  Boasting a diversity of backgrounds and experience, these “Climate Champions” will continue to work throughout the year to promote awareness of and engagement on climate change as a health priority. 

As part of this program, each month during 2017 the Climate for Health blog will publish a Q&A with one of our Climate Champions on how the Learning Institute inspired them and how they plan to integrate it into their work. Each blog will be keyed to the monthly theme of APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health. July’s theme is Food and Nutrition. (Answers are an edited composite of information shared with us.)

This month’s Champion is Jason Craig, a PhD student and Research Assistant at the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.  Jason uses Participatory Action Research to explore the role of democratic participation as it applies to issues associated with agriculture, food systems, and nutrition.

Jason, please begin by describing for us in one sentence your experience at the APHA Learning Institute.

I had the opportunity to see a range of communication strategies used by leaders approaching “health” from many different perspectives.

Given what you see in your work, why do you feel climate change is an important issue for health professionals?

Most nutritionists agree that fresh fruits and vegetables are important for good health, and much of the work we do is trying to make fresh, seasonal produce available and affordable to more people. The strategies we explore involve working with farmers to increase opportunities for direct sales to the eaters.  Supporting farmers in this way has helped us recognize the challenges these farmers face in light of climate damage. The previous two years, South Carolina has experienced flooding that destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars of crops, and this year, 90 percent of the peach crop was wiped out by a frost that came on the heels of an unusually long January heat wave.

Why were you interested in the Learning Institute course?

I believe that many of the problems we address in Public Health are complicated problems that will require all sorts of disparate people, with different priorities, working together.  I often hear these problems referred to as “wicked” problems, and I often see where certain solutions become politically contested just by the ways they are described.  In this way, anything I can learn about effective communication seems beneficial.

What were your key takeaways from the course?

The course did a great job of reminding me to start my communication efforts by listening.  It is a lesson that I’m always working on, the idea that to know that someone else can hear me, I need to demonstrate that I can hear them.

How do you plan to apply what you’ve learned?

I apply what I learned in the way that I interact with other members of our research team, our community partners and with the ways I interact with students in the classroom.  In each of these interactions, I try and start by listening to specific concerns of others, and then identify opportunities to share my own.  Along these lines, I’ve discovered that it helps people to hear me better if I first own concerns about climate damage as personal concerns.  I find that in these cases there is a lot less arguing or debate, and a lot more opportunities to look for solutions that address mutual concerns.  

What are you currently doing to raise awareness and engagement around climate change?

In teaching and in community work, we mostly communicate through the lens of a food system that includes all the decisions that people make in getting the food from the soil to the body.  We try and have conversations about how these decisions affect environmental and human health.  In this way climate change is effected by many of these decisions and will in turn have an effect on future decisions.

What would you recommend to other health professionals who want to engage others on climate change?

I have found it easier to build relationships when I own the concerns about climate damage as my own concerns. In a similar vein, I try and allow time for others to suggest solutions before I suggest my own.  Even when I have a specific solution I’d like to draw attention to, I find it more important to have conversations rather than sales pitches.  

 

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]

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 9-JULY 15

Every Monday, Climate for Health shares the past week’s most interesting and useful climate stories. Check in to learn about major developments in climate and health, new findings in climate research, and effective solutions for addressing climate change.

Impacts

Three new analyses assess the disparate impacts of climate change among the most vulnerable in society, on local agriculture and crop yields in arid regions of the United States, and on the heightened impacts of exposure to both smog and ragweed pollen for millions of Americans.

“Climate change and inequality”, The Economist

“Study: Climate Change To Deplete Water Supply For Arizona Cotton Farmers” by Casey Kuhn, KJZZ

“Four Out of 10 Americans Live in “Double Whammy” Climate Hot Spots Where Smog and Ragweed Threaten Health”, Natural Resources Defense Council

Communications

When a New York magazine article on the worst-case climate scenario was published this week, experts refuted its doomsday messaging.

“Scientists challenge magazine story about uninhabitable Earth” by Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

Advocacy

Climate advocacy continues to take root as a silver lining to Trump’s climate denialism.

“Climate Change Activists Flood Capitol to Lobby Lawmakers” by Griffin Connolly, Roll Call

Solutions

Failure to address climate change in infrastructure planning now will have dramatic consequences for public health and safety later.  Fortunately, cities, states, and local communities are leading the way in the absence of action by the federal government.

“Making Infrastructure Great Again Means Acknowledging Climate Change” by Gary Yohe, Huffington Post

“As Feds Move Away From Climate Change, Maine and New England Consider Stronger CO2 Caps” by Fred Bever, Maine Public

“American Climate Perspectives: 8 out of 10 Americans Agree: Local Communities Should Lead on Climate Solutions”, ecoAmerica

“Positive Cities” Can Improve the Planet as Well as People’s Lives” by William McDonough, Scientific American

“US may still meet Paris accord targets, UN chief says” by Mythili Sampathkumar, Independent

 

A Climate and Health Conference and Climate Day LA: An Auspicious Start to a New Beginning

In the last few weeks since beginning my new position as Program Manager of ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health program, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two exciting events in support of ecoAmerica’s national climate and health initiatives. 

On my first two days, I attended the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE)’s “Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action” conference, co-sponsored by Climate for Health.  The dedication and passion exhibited by the nurses in attendance was inspiring and, for me, an incredible introduction to our collaboration with ANHE and my work with Climate for Health more broadly. (For another perspective on the conference, check out intern Mark Oswald’s blog post.)

Shortly after, I had the opportunity to remotely support ecoAmerica’s efforts to expand climate action and its Path to Positive Communities campaign through its Climate Day LA festivities in Los Angeles.  As I joined others from ecoAmerica in posting and sharing the day’s events and quotes from the many inspirational speakers on social media, I was moved by the many calls to action and stories of how so many were devoting their life’s work to promoting and protecting the public’s health and wellbeing from the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The day highlighted, for me, the intersectionality of our many efforts and reinforced the notion I first learned in my graduate training in public health that the pursuit of health and wellness isn’t limited to doctor’s visits, preventative actions like exercise and good nutrition, or even any sort of other traditional intervention explicitly related to health and medicine, as important as all of these are. 

Rather, the event highlighted for me that this pursuit also encompasses actions taken by city planners to promote walkability, green space and reduced dependence on the automobile; faith leaders who fight for justice and social equality in their local communities, nationally, and internationally; and, yes, doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who advocate on behalf of climate and social justice issues both as professionals and as concerned citizens and as part of their central mission to protect the public’s health.  Each of these upstream interventions enables us to address causes of ill health and inequality at their source and thus reduce the necessity of costly treatments to remedy their, often tragic, consequences.  As Nourbese Flint, of the organization Black Women for Wellness, put it at Climate Day LA, emphasizing the necessity of the broad scope of our interventions: “Affordable housing, economics, and women’s health intersect with climate change.” Indeed, and so when we broaden our view of what constitutes the problem of climate change, the range of solutions available to address it expands as well.

Effective Communication is Key

Key to any effective intervention in support of climate and health promotion is effective communication.  However, as Stuart Wood reminded us in his Path to Positive Communities blog last week, talking about climate change can be challenging. That’s why ecoAmerica has conducted exhaustive research to identify the most effective ways to discuss climate change, which can be broken down into the 15 simple steps found in our “Let’s Talk Health and Climate” guide. A quick summary:

1. Start with people, stay with people: If you want your audience to care about climate change, then show you care about them. Start from their perspective, not yours.

2. Connect on common values: Once you understand your audience’s priorities—family? freedom? health? – you can open their hearts and minds by talking about those values, and by showing you honor and share them.

3. Acknowledge ambivalence:  Don’t be self-righteous. Respect people’s viewpoints and allow them their own space.

4. Make it real: Focus on local realities people can see with their own eyes (simple, irrefutable facts about health impacts or record weather) to make climate change concrete and relevant.

5.  Emphasize solutions:  Using tangible, local examples, point out how climate solutions such as low-cost solar energy are accessible, are available here and now, and are creating safe and healthy communities that protect our families’ health.

6.  Inspire and empower:  Encourage your audience to adopt a can-do attitude. America can lead on climate, and so can your state, town, family, and you!

7. Focus on personal benefit: Even as they spend money on fossil fuel energy that could be better used, most Americans believe action on climate change comes with a financial cost.  When people realize they will gain benefits from climate solutions, they are more willing to participate in them.

8. End with your “ask”: Encourage your audience to turn their new knowledge into action. Give them a clear set of tasks that link to the solutions you’ve discussed.

9. Sequence matters: Research reveals that you can take the same set of six facts, arrange them in different ways, and end up with very different results. Follow steps 1 to 8 in order for maximum effectiveness.

10. Describe, don’t label:  The most persuasive language is vivid, familiar, and descriptive. Avoid terms like “mitigation,” “adaptation,” or complex health terminology not used by the general public.

11. Include at least 1 powerful fact from a trusted messenger: One or two facts with emotional power add weight to a message. Trusted messengers or organizations lend credibility.

12. Ditch doom and gloom: Negative information on climate can be overwhelming, causing people to disengage. Discuss only one or two climate impacts and how they are connected to health, but don’t over-emphasize them at the expense of common values, solutions, benefits, and personal empowerment.

13. Use stories to strengthen engagement: Stories help make your message relevant and vivid. Weave in your personal story—how you became concerned about climate change, for instance.

14. Stay above the fray: Focus on the big picture. Don’t get caught in a trap of preaching, nitpicking about details, or getting sidetracked by doubters. Trade blame for a focus on choice and solutions.

15. Message discipline is critical: Stay on your talking points. Repeat key points. Refrain from explaining the same thing in different ways—this can be more confusing than enlightening. Follow the steps outlined in this guide.  Be consistent across all messaging platforms, but be sure to tailor your message to your audience.

Armed with the right tools, including these 15 steps, and a sense of passion to protect and promote the public’s health in response to climate change, we can ultimately remediate its impacts and play our part in forming a more just and healthy world.

Please consider staying up to date on what’s happening at Climate for Health by signing up for our weekly blog.

 

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]

 

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 2-JULY 8

While the Trump administration is busy cutting back environmental regulations that support and promote the public’s health, it is also making it more difficult for people to obtain the medical care they need to treat the impacts of those decisions

“The E.P.A.’s Dangerous Anti-Regulatory Policies” by Elizabeth Colbert, The New Yorker

“Trumpcare and climate change will have the same victims” by Emma Foehringer Merchant, Grist

And meanwhile local communities, including those most vulnerable due to socioeconomic status, geography, or both, bear some of the greatest burdens

“FEATURE-Fight, flee, or wait and see? Locals face hard choices as Louisiana coast recedes” by Ellen Wulfhorst, Thomson Reuters Foundation

“In Atlantic City, residents feel injustice of climate change” by Hari Sreenivasan, PBS Newshour

But a concerned public continues to put anger into action as local communities, businesses, and foreign governments step up to the plate

“Walking the Line: A two-week journey on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route” by Kara West, The Daily Climate

US may still meet Paris accord targets, UN chief says by Mythili Sampathkumar, Independent

As all eyes were on the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany…

World Leaders Move Forward on Climate Change, Without U.S. by Steven Erlanger, Alison Smale, Lisa Friedman, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, The New York Times

More to come next week…

And if you haven’t already, subsrcibe and get our weekly blog sent to your inbox!

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]

CLIMATE AND HEALTH NEWS: TOP STORIES FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 25-JULY 1

The dangers posed by a changing climate are pervasive, from threats to our individual health from vector-based disease to inequality and disruptions to our food supply at the national and global levels

“How climate change helped Lyme disease invade America” by Julia Belluz, Vox

“Vulnerable ‘chokepoints’ threaten global food supply, warns report” by Damian Carrington, The Guardian

“Climate change will make America way more economically unequal—just look at these charts” by Ari Phillips, Project Earth

But solutions are many as well and the healthcare sector is leading the way…

“Boston’s health care sector is on front line of climate readiness” by Kate Walsh and David Torchiana, The Boston Globe

“Why a Telemedicine Group Launched a Task Force on Climate Change” by Ernie Smith, Associations Now

…along with local communities and dedicated individuals

“Hundreds of US mayors endorse switch to 100% renewable energy by 2035” by Associated Press, The Guardian

“States Betting on Giant Batteries to Cut Carbon” by Bobby Magill, Climate Central

“In Cleveland, climate change isn’t about rising seas. It’s about jobs and health.” by Jason Margolis, PRI

“Trump Inspires Scientist to Run for Congress to Fight Climate Change” by Chelsea Bailey and Matt Toder, NBC News

And Americans know the importance of teaching children about the value of healthy, thriving nature for the health of future generations

“Common Ground: Nine in Ten Americans Agree We Should Speak to Our Children About a Future That Has Thriving, Healthy Nature” by Meighen Speiser and Paige Fery, ecoAmerica

Finally, if you didn’t get a chance to attend or follow the festivities at ClimateDayLA last week, you can check out our partner Climate Resolve’s interviews with two inspiring health speakers from the event on our blog: Rachelle Reyes Wenger of Dignity Health and Nourbese Flint of Black Women for Wellness!

 

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]

CLIMATE LEADERSHIP IN LA: INTERVIEW WITH NOURBESE FLINT

Nourbese Flint is the Policy Director and Manager of Reproductive Justice Programming for Black Women for Wellness and a Climate Day LA speaker.

Tell us about your work on climate change.

On the surface, our work around fracking and our community food desert work, as well as some of our policy work, is our climate change work. However, I think our real work and contribution is bringing an intersectional lens to traditional environmental health and rights organizations about climate change. We link the lived experiences of our community to how we can reimagine what climate change work looks like in a way that is holistic. I know that sounds hippyish and like a true California born-and-raised answer, but it’s true.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

I work in reproductive justice, and what keeps me waking up in the morning is that I know I’m on the right side of history… and one day, hopefully not too far in the future, when the first enterprise is hitting “warp speed” (which is more likely hyperdrive), black women and girls will be able to be seen and heard and afforded all the rights and dignity that every other person on that ship has. Who inspires me, I would have to say my mother and my grandmother who worked and continue to work to make my life a little bit easier. Outside of those two, I would say, Eartha Kitt, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Mae Jemison.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

So, this could be a dissertation in itself. But just to keep it simple: racism, patriarchy, sexism, and classism. What would my job easier…. solving those issues!

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

One wish, the invention of Starfleet. I know sounds crazy, but I do think that it could solve a lot of issues, including climate change. 2: Transporter, because that would so cut down on travel-related carbon in the atmosphere. 3: A way to bend space for human travel throughout the galaxies.

Stef McDonald is the Communications Director for Climate Resolve. This post first appeared on the Path to Positive: Los Angeles blog.

CLIMATE LEADERSHIP IN LA: INTERVIEW WITH RACHELLE REYES WENGER

Rachelle Wenger is the Director of Public Policy & Community Advocacy of Dignity Health and a scheduled speaker for Climate Day LA 2017.

Tell us about your work on climate change. 

Our climate and sustainability goals include reducing waste, evaluating what we purchase, making facilities more energy-efficient, and promoting better food choices. We’ve also set targets for 2020 to reduce our GHG emissions by 40% and increase sourcing of renewable energy to 35%. We’re especially proud of our shareholder and legislative advocacy work: Our new investment policy integrates environmental sustainability into our investment goals, and we have advocated for landmark climate legislation in California, including SB 350, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

As a five-year-old immigrant to this country, life’s journey has led to many paths — all of which pulled for something greater in me, of me. The environment — all of it, people, nature, our interactions — is both so informing and inspiring. It tells you when you’re home, how your voice is needed, what door to walk through, why it’s so important to stand up for the little guys and those in need. It’s quite a luxury (and, to be honest, uncomfortable) to think about what I do now as a career. It makes sense to me to think of work more as a calling. I love being about a healing mission that’s doing its part to care for human health and the environment and striving each and every day to be guided by values that squarely look at how to further dignity, justice, collaboration, stewardship and excellence. Our patients and the communities we serve inspire me; our Sponsors who entrust us with the ministry inspire me; the many men and women who commit day in and day out to the work of healthcare inspire me; the many organizations, business and community leaders who toil to improve the quality of life inspire me; and above all, those who have no voice and live in the margins of society, yet call out to us, move me most.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

The greatest challenge to work seems to be how we humans approach change and how to harness the power of diversity. I come across fear disguised in so many ways. I think we forget we’re on the same team, that there’s a common good to unearth. It would be great if we understood at the outset that work is about creating the possibilities for change — that we’re the changemakers to human kindness in the world. Misunderstanding, suffering, isolation, destruction — these are so palpable today. What are ways we can build from the cultural assets we have to sustain communities and lift us up as a whole? There is no one answer, but I bet it would help to be open to finding out.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

The first wish is for climate change to mean something personal — in the way that we’d want to give our all, our best thinking, our best way of caring, our best way of doing things together. The second is to fall in love with Earth. I guess that’s another way of saying my first wish. Lastly, since sky’s the limit, I’d like to be that wish-granting genie that can transport herself from place to place in a blink. How cool is that?! Just imagine all the GHGs from jet fuel I’d prevent not having to fly. So much of Earth to see, delight and relish in wonder. Make room for me, Barbara Eden — there’s another genie in town.

Stef McDonald is the Communications Director for Climate Resolve. This post first appeared on the Path to Positive: Los Angeles blog.

A Call to Action: Nurses’ Inspiring Leadership on Climate and Health

On June 12th and 13th, almost 100 nursing professionals from around the country came to Washington, D.C. to attend the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments’ Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action conference. As an intern with ecoAmerica, I was lucky enough to witness the wonderful passion that many people put into making the conference a huge success. From start to finish, the event was full of an infectious energy and determination to empower nurses to advocate effectively for climate action.

The first day featured a powerful and engaging lineup of speakers who covered topics ranging from the health impacts of climate change to nursing success stories. It started off with former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy giving a rousing speech that emphasized the need for everyone to work to build political will for climate solutions. She highlighted how nurses, as the most trusted profession in America, are well-suited to engaging with others on climate change. And due to its disproportionate impacts on minorities and low-income communities, it is even more important for public health professionals to understand the best ways to talk about climate with patients and vulnerable populations.

Following McCarthy’s address to the nurses, Dr. John Balbus, a Senior Advisor for Public Health and Director of the NIEHS-WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Sciences, presented on the science of climate change and its links to health. His talk was chock full of important information about the connections between greenhouse gas emissions and their various health-related climate impacts, like the spread of tropical diseases. The morning ended with a panel of speakers who discussed various communication and leadership skills nurses can develop and practice to engage others in effective climate action. They talked about how nurses can improve their own education, advocacy, research, and practice to be strong leaders in improving the public health dialogue on climate change and its solutions.

After a delicious lunch at Georgetown’s Faculty Club, the attending nurses were treated to some of the best speakers on climate communications and public health, including the Climate Reality Project’s Doug Glancy and ecoAmerica’s own Bob Perkowitz. There were also presentations covering current climate policies in the U.S. and their connections to health, as well as a delightful panel of nurses who shared some of their own success stories for building momentum and action on climate. With all these thoughtful and inspiring people coming together to share so many important insights on climate and health, it was great to see how everyone was able to broaden and build on each other’s collective potential.

And after witnessing all their positive energy firsthand, it was easy to see why the public’s trust in nurses remains so high – their kindness and passion for healthy people was on display everywhere. The climate movement is all the more empowered to have their warm hearts and minds to bring to bear.

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of June 18-June 24

Summer’s here, and that means heat waves, which are often amplified by climate change.

 “Deadly heat waves could endanger 74% of mankind, study says,” by Marianne Levelle, Inside Climate News

We’re hearing about heat stress in New York City  and Louisville, KY, made worse by the “urban heat island” effect, as explained in this story:

“How urban ‘heat islands’ threaten public health,” by Molly Peterson, Grist

Some of those public health effects include the spread of Zika virus and other diseases.

“Why you need to know about mice, ticks, warm temperatures and Lyme disease,” by Melissa Banigan, The Washington Post

 

Medical research is also confirming the links between dirty energy and illness.

“Study quantifies health impacts of storing and transporting coal,” by Benjamin Powers, Fusion

“Study of oil and gas drilling finds pollution and connections to earthquakes,” by David Hun, The Houston Chronicle

 

In the face of all this, we learned how cities can play a unique role in climate and health action.

“Can urban forests cultivate sustainable health care?” by Kat Friedrich, GreenBiz

“If cities really want to deal with climate change, they have to reduce auto use,” by Henry Grabar, Grist

 

And we saw prominent people devoting their careers—even switching jobs—on behalf of climate.

“Al Gore: Battle against climate change is like fight against slavery,” by Damian Carrington, The Guardian

“Dissonance and divestment: Profile of an activist [Lisa Renstrom],” by Chuck Collins, Resilience

“Mayor [Dawn Zimmer] seeks climate job instead of 3rd term, blames Trump,” Associated Press

 

What can you do this coming week? If you’re in Los Angeles on June 27, join ecoAmerica for ClimateDay LA at the Theater At Ace in downtown Los Angeles. ecoAmerica and its event partners KCRW, Climate Resolve, FORM, and IHEARTCOMIX will present a free, daytime conference rallying Angelenos from all sectors to discuss and celebrate local solutions to climate change. Centered on the Path to Positive LA initiative, Climate Day LA will focus on building momentum  for change and will be capped off with a ticketed benefit gala featuring innovative musician Moby and a concert with top artists and DJs.

If you’re not in California, you can catch highlights on our Twitter feed, @Climate4Health.  Or follow the live tweets of Path to Positive Communities writer Stuart Wood, @path2positive, and ecoAmerica’s Hanna Mandell, @ecoAmerica.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Tanjila Taskin

During its Annual Meeting & Expo last fall, the American Public Health Association and Climate for Health’s parent organization, ecoAmerica, held their first-ever Learning Institute: “Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st-Century Climate for Health.”  (Our partners in this venture included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.) The goal: to help prepare participants to speak as leaders on climate and health impacts and solutions.

To expand the number of public health professionals who have the support they need to learn about the issues, ecoAmerica awarded Learning Institute scholarships to 10 individuals from all over the United States.  Boasting a diversity of backgrounds and experience, these “Climate Champions” will continue to work throughout the year to promote awareness of and engagement on climate change as a health priority. 

As part of this program, each month during 2017 the Climate for Health blog will publish a Q&A with one of our Climate Champions on how the Learning Institute inspired them and how they plan to integrate it into their work. Each blog will be keyed to the monthly theme of APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health. June’s theme is Mental Health. (Answers are an edited composite of information shared with us.)

This month’s Champion is Tanjila Taskin, a graduate research assistant at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. Tanjila is working with the Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium while she pursues a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in environmental and occupational health sciences. She also holds an M.P.H. in epidemiology from North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Tanjila, what drew you to the Learning Institute?

I plan to pursue a career as an environmental epidemiologist. The Learning Institute course seemed like a good starting point for learning about and addressing the health impacts of climate change, and protecting both people and the environment to prevent further harm. It was important to me to learn the right way to communicate about and disseminate these messages to the larger community.

How would you summarize your Learning Institute experience, and what were your takeaways from the course?

By enhancing my knowledge of climate change and its importance to human health, the Learning Institute has helped me to develop professional credibility. For me, the lessons that made the greatest impact were using proper phrasing in our communications, depending on our audience; framing solutions in terms of benefits to the community rather than harms to the environment; and the importance of promoting a green lifestyle and saving energy.

Also, the course introduced me to the “Let’s Talk Health & Climate” guide.  It is a treasure to the public health profession!

How do you plan to apply what you’ve learned?

The Learning Institute helped me to understand the need to build awareness of how climate change causes many chronic diseases – including unstable mental health. I believe that addressing climate change on behalf of our mental well-being will also lead to greater physical and social well-being. As a prospective Ph.D. student, I would like to develop expertise in identifying the association between climate change and chronic diseases like this.

Given what you see in your work, why do you feel climate change is an important issue for other health professionals?

Studies show that climate change has a direct impact on physical and mental health including trauma, shock, stress, anxiety, and depression.  In fact, a significant association has been found between the occurrence of drought and farmer suicides in Australia. Health care professionals have a great influence on their patients, who trust the information they provide. So to ensure a better life today and healthy future generations, they need to play a leadership role, both professionally and personally. They can start by adopting climate-change awareness components in their existing practice as one way to help prevent mental illness. 

How would you recommend health professionals engage others on climate change?

It is urgent for health care professionals to model climate-aware behavior, such as giving lifestyle tips to our patients and clients and by playing an advocacy role in our personal and professional communities. I highly recommend using ecoAmerica’s “15 Steps to Create Effective Climate Communication” as a tool to engage others.

What are you currently doing to raise awareness and engagement around climate change?

I promote climate change awareness among members of my student organization utilizing the “15 Steps” guide. Beyond this, I am promoting green practices at my workplace and sharing information about the effects of climate change on mental health, including how extreme weather events can trigger stress reactions due to its impacts on people’s families and their surroundings. On a personal level, I like to give plants as gifts with a card reminding the recipient to “Turn up the thermostat in the summer to save energy!” Overall, I like to frame the climate as “not mine, but ours.” 

NOTE: Beginning next week, Climate for Health program manager Tim Kelly will write and edit this blog.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of June 11-June 17

This past week saw Washington lagging behind on climate even as the rest of America was stepping up.

“EPA: Air pollution rule should be delayed–despite its effect on children,” by Oliver Milman, The Guardian

“Trump administration delays rules limiting methane emissions,” by Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

 

We learned about the struggles and victories to be found in communicating across partisan lines and other differences:

“Fighting climate change can be lonely in oil country, especially for a kid,” by Neela Bannerjee, Inside Climate News

“Climate change communication in relation to race, class, and gender,” by Adam R. Pearson, Matthew T. Ballew, Sarah Naiman, and Jonathon P. Schuldt, Climate Science

 

There was good news on the renewable energy front…

“Renewables provided a record 10% of U.S. power in March,” by Joe Ryan, Bloomberg
‘Spectacular’ drop in renewable energy costs leads to record global boost,” by Damian Carrington, The Guardian

 

…even as medical research revealed good reasons to move away from fossil fuels and out of our cars.

“Science is linking fossil fuels and neurological damage,” John Merck Fund

“Air pollution more harmful to children in cars than outside, warns top scientist,” by Damian Carrington, The Guardian

 

Here at Climate for Health, we were busy supporting our partner Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments at their “Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action” conference June 12 in Washington, D.C. Bob Perkowitz, president of our parent organization, ecoAmerica, debuted a new health and climate communications training module with Doug Glancy of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. Climate for Health’s new program manager, Tim Kelly, spent his first day at the conference. Welcome, Tim!

Finally, last Thursday’s blog explored how the health care sector is pushing forward on climate in the wake of Trump’s Paris pullout. This week, we’ll introduce you to another of our “Climate Champions,” Tanjila Taskin.

Can’t wait? Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

Post-Paris Pullout, the Health Sector Is Stepping Up for Climate Action

When President Donald J. Trump announced on June 1 that he intends to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement, many of us were disappointed, even stunned.

But then something remarkable happened. Mayors, states, and professional organizations stepped up, mobilizing quickly to publicly restate their commitment to act on climate– and to start making plans to do more. Within hours, the bipartisan United States Climate Alliance had been formed to keep the pact’s voluntary greenhouse gas-reduction pledges, and the group now counts 12 states and Puerto Rico as members.  When China is partnering with California on climate action and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offers to pay to keep America in the U.N.’s climate negotiating body, it’s clear we’re living in an extraordinary moment.

Medical Momentum

Not surprisingly, the health care community was one of these first responders. Shortly after the announcement, leading health organizations and leaders from across the country—from the American Public Health Association and the American Lung Association to Health Care Without Harm and the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health —began releasing official statements and op-eds to the news media. Their overarching message: Climate change is a public health issue. We must act now, even if our government won’t.

On June 2, for example, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) issued a statement of solidarity:

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) is one with nations around the world, state and local government leaders and everyone in the community who expressed their dismay, frustration and anger at the decision to withdraw the United States from our commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

UPHE used the occasion to spotlight its recently launched UnMask My City campaign, part of a global effort to reduce air pollution. They also quoted board member Howie Garber, who described his experience as an ER physician who confronts health and climate links daily.  Later, Dr. Garber spoke at Salt Lake City’s Pride March and Rally.

Such efforts resulted in news stories that appeared in major outlets including NBC News and The Los Angeles Times  the same week—when the topic was still fresh in the public’s mind.  For example, Climate for Health Leadership Circle member Dr. Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a longtime member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, did an interview on climate impacts and solutions with MIT’s science magazine UnDark. Its headline: “Leaving the Paris Climate Accord Could Lead to a Public Health Disaster.” The article was quickly reprinted in Scientific American and elsewhere.

The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health’s statement on Paris was frequently quoted in the news, with pieces in MedScape and at Health Central quoting MSCCH Director Dr. Mona Sarfaty, a member of Climate for Health’s Leadership Circle.  The group’s recent “Medical Alert! Climate Change Is Harming Our Health” report was featured in a story in the independent news site AlterNet, also quoting Dr. Sarfaty at length.  The consortium comprises the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and 10 other national organizations.

Major healthcare systems also released statements on the Paris pullout, leading the industry journal Modern Healthcare to publish a piece on the ways Virginia Mason Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Trinity Health, and Buffalo’s Catholic Health System are already addressing climate and environmental health issues at their facilities, and their deepened commitment to continue.

What We’re Doing

ecoAmerica, Climate for Health’s parent organization, has begun rolling out some initiatives that have been in the works, but just became all the more timely. As President Bob Perkowitz put it in ecoAmerica’s latest newsletter, “We’re reassessing all our work to accelerate and amplify these commitments.”

For example, ecoAmerica is partnering with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project on a new leadership training program to help equip more health professionals to speak publicly about the medical impacts of climate change. Earlier this week, Perkowitz and CRP Climate Speakers Network Director Doug Glancy debuted a health and climate communications training module at the Association of Nurses for Healthy Environments “Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action” conference in Washington, D.C. 

At the second annual Climate Day LA June 27 in downtown Los Angeles, ecoAmerica and its event partners KCRW, Climate Resolve, FORM, and IHEARTCOMIX will present a free daytime conference rallying Angelenos from all sectors to discuss and celebrate local solutions to climate change. Mayor Eric Garcetti, climate philanthropist Tom Steyer, Blessed Tomorrow leader Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and rising advocates will be among the panelists. Centered on the Path to Positive LA initiative, Climate Day LA will focus on building momentum  for change and will be capped off with a ticketed benefit gala featuring innovative musician Moby and a concert with top artists and DJs.

And at ecoAmerica’s American Climate Leadership Summit October 25-26 in Washington, D.C., ecoAmerica will hold a cross-sector forum that allows health leaders to network with leaders in faith, business, and other communities.  The forum is in keeping with the summit’s new theme, Taking Up the Mantle. The invitation-only event is designed to accelerate and diversity climate leadership, build capacity, and stimulate collaboration on solutions. Take a sneak peek at the updated agenda here.

We salute all of these initiatives and would love to hear what your organization is doing. If you’d like to contribute a blog about it, contact [email protected] If you need ideas, download our “Let’s Talk Climate and Health” guide. In the meantime, social media can be a useful organizing and promotional tool; suggested hashtags include #ActOnClimate, #LeadOnClimate, #ParisAgreement and #ClimateChangesHealth.

 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of June 4-June 10

Leaders from all across America and the globe continued to make climate pledges and plans in the wake of the President’s rejection of the Paris Agreement:

“Bloomberg delivers U.S. pledge to continue Paris climate goals to U.N.,” by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

“China is now looking to California—not Trump– to help lead the fight against climate change,” by Jessica Meyers, The Los Angeles Times

 

In the “Paris of the Appalachians’ [Pittsburgh, below] they’re not buying Trump’s climate talk,” by Todd C. Frankel, The Washington Post

 

Dirty energy is on the decline….

“In Trump Country, renewable energy is thriving,” by Justin Gillis and Nadja Popvich, The New York Times

“The Pacific Northwest is proving grassroots action against fossil fuels can work,” by Renee Lewis, Fusion

 

…and the health benefits of clean energy are being quantified.

“Coal to solar switch could save 52,000 US lives per year,” by Brian Biankowski, The Daily Climate

 

People are finding effective new ways to talk about climate facts, and skeptics are turning into believers.

“How to teach kids about climate change where most parents are skeptics,”  by Sarah Caplan, The Washington Post

“Climate Characters: Meteorologist stopped doubting when he couldn’t disprove,” by Zara Abrams, The Daily Climate (Check out the entire “Climate Characters” series to learn what drives individuals’ points of view…and changes them.)

 

Finally, it’s no surprise the health care community is on the climate case:

Today, June 12, and tomorrow, Climate for Health partner the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments will be holding its “Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action” conference in Washington, D.C. Didn’t register? Don’t worry, our Program Intern Mark Oswald will be live-Tweeting the event — follow @Climate4Health to see his posts.

And come back Thursday, when this blog will report on more of the steps the health care field has been taking post-Paris to step up action on climate.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

Talking About Climate Change in the Emergency Department

Should we be talking about the health impacts of climate change with our patients in the emergency department (ED)? Admittedly, this is a question I hadn’t considered until recently. Maybe I was being overly optimistic, but I always imagined entering into clinical practice and finding ways to discuss climate and health with my future patients. As I prepare to begin my residency at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in metropolitan Detroit in July, the prospect of having these conversations in the busy ED seems almost jarring. However, behind the acute problems we encounter in the ED lie a set of chronic conditions and social determinants we should be addressing – and the health impacts of climate change are among them.

A Unique Challenge

In many ways the health impacts of climate change are elusive. We recognize patients who have diabetes or COPD, but generally only see these people in the ED when their symptoms become severe. Symptoms of chronic disease develop gradually, and major lifestyle changes are needed to prevent the disease from progressing. Unfortunately, the ED is not the place to manage these chronic conditions. Rather, it is where people are treated for an acute exacerbation of their chronic disease, then advised to follow up with their primary care physician. As a result, the discussions on how to manage or prevent these conditions is brief of non-existent.

So how can we find time to address the bigger picture? Climate change is an omnipresent influence, often unrecognizable to the untrained eye. It’s difficult to discern how to increase public awareness and understanding of this important environmental determinant of health because our time is already limited. In the ED, we give medications and suture lacerations, we order X-rays and blood tests, and we work with multiple patients simultaneously while awaiting the arrival of our next patients. Amidst all this, we do make time to have discussions, albeit brief, about the importance of self-care. For patients who are marginalized, or who lack access to regular healthcare or resources, we may even help them to find the services they need. So if we can make time for or recruit others to have these conversations with our patients, why can’t we also discuss the health impacts of climate change?

Making a Start

Maybe it’s time for us to think about climate change differently. Perhaps we should consider regarding the acute events precipitated by climate change, such as asthma exacerbations related to air pollution or heat stroke associated with rising temperatures, as integral to emergency care. If we do, it may be possible to have those brief conversations that inspire patients to start thinking about how the changing environment is directly (or indirectly) affecting their health.

As idealistic as all this sounds, there may be practical ways to go about it. A few emergency physicians I have spoken with have had success discussing the environmental impact of food choices or the role of air pollution in worsening asthma. While sharing information with their patients about the reduced cardiovascular disease risk associated with consuming less red meat, these physicians will also emphasize the benefits of a healthier diet on the natural environment through emissions reduction. Connecting our patients’ behaviors with the environment may be the most reasonable means for introducing the topic of climate change in the ED.

Given the time constraints experienced by most emergency physicians, there’s likely no practical way to sit down and have long conversations about the climate, or even discuss all of the ways that climate change is impacting health. Therefore, we must not forget that we can also have an important impact outside of the emergency department. We can easily raise awareness of environmental sustainability by promoting recycling and reducing waste. Many hospitals have “green teams” specifically charged with this task, and organizations like Practice Greenhealth partner with healthcare systems across the United States to encourage environmental stewardship through environmentally-conscious healthcare practices. These practices have been shown to reduce costs for the hospital while also lessening healthcare’s already substantial environmental impact. And increased awareness of and support for sustainability in hospitals may prompt the surrounding communities to adopt these behaviors as well.

As climate and health leaders we must share our knowledge with our colleagues. We must raise awareness of the rapidly changing climate by discussing the specific health impacts of climate change. As I prepare to enter medical residency, I hope to share my knowledge with my co-residents, my attending physicians, and the rest of the health care team. I hope to partner with my hospital’s green team to advance sustainable practices within the hospital. Most of all, I hope to develop ways to discuss the health impacts of climate change with my patients. I recognize that this will not be an easy task, but I am entering residency with the energy and the determination to make it happen.

Editor’s Note: Climate for Health’s “Let’s Talk Health and Climate” guide provides helpful strategies for getting conversations going in clinical settings. Health care providers may also find our one-page climate and health Fact Sheets useful for this purpose. Written in collaboration with the American Public Health Association and supporting partners, they summarize the information presented in our 2016 “Making the Connection: Climate Changes Health” webinar series.

You may also be interested in reading the book Global Climate Change and Human Health, co-edited by our Leadership Circle member Jay Lemery. Dr. Lemery is an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado; read his profile here.

 

Former Climate for Health intern Matthew Mueller graduated from Des Moines University Medical School in Iowa, where he received  Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees. He will soon begin a residency in emergency medicine at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in metropolitan Detroit, MI. In his spare time, he enjoys distance running.

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of May 28-June 3

Top of the news this week was the President’s June 1 decision to pull out of the Paris Accord on climate change.  

“Trump announces U.S. will exit Paris climate deal, sparking criticism at home and abroad,” by Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson, The Washington Post

Health care leaders reacted swiftly, outlining what is at stake.

“Leaving the Paris Accord will be a public health disaster,” by Robin Lloyd, UnDark

“Healthcare leaders decry Trump’s withdrawal from Paris climate accord,” by Steven Ross Johnson, Modernhealthcare.com

National and global leaders were also quick to respond :

“Bucking Trump, these cities, states and companies commit to Paris Accord,” by Hiroko Tabuchi and Henry Fountain, The New York Times

“U.N. chief: Not even Trump can derail global action on climate change,” by Sabrina Shankman, Inside Climate News

Clearly, climate solutions are all around us, and many sectors are already transitioning into more sustainable ways of doing business. That’s happening on the energy front…

“Coal country’s power plants are turning away from coal,” by Diane Cardwell and Clifford Krauss, The New York Times

“Governor McAuliffe promotes clean energy jobs in Virginia’s coalfields,” by Joel Dashiell, WDBJ-7 TV

…and on the dietary front as well.

 “Eating on the brink: how food could prevent a climate disaster,” by Anna Lappe, Civil Eats

Finally, a major institution published a set of low-carbon and resilience strategies tailored to the health care sector:

“New World Bank report calls for health sector leadership on climate,” by Health Care Without Harm. (Download the full “Climate Smart Health Care” report here. )

We’ve got to keep on keeping on, with an understanding that the health of the earth and its inhabitants are one and the same, as our blog on the premier Planetary Health conference explained last week. And this coming Thursday, we’ll hear from one of the next generation of climate-aware physicians. If you’re not already getting the blog in your in-box, you can sign up here.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

New Field at Intersection of Planet, Humanity & Health Kicks Off Premier Conference

During the last weekend in April, while millions took peacefully to the streets for climate marches, nearly 400 people–hailing from 28 countries and 30 states and representing a diversity of disciplines — headed instead for Harvard Medical School’s conference center in Boston. The occasion: the Inaugural Planetary Health/Geohealth Annual Meeting.

Co-sponsored by the Planetary Health Alliance, the American Geophysical Union, the Wellcome Trust, the Ecological Society of America, and The Lancet, the event was made possible through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Planetary health is an umbrella term for a new, multidisciplinary approach to addressing “the health of human civilizations and the state of the natural systems on which they depend.” In this context, climate change is just one focus among many interrelated topics.  

As Harvard’s Dr. Sam Myers, director of the Planetary Health Alliance, told radio station WBUR ahead of the meeting,

The whole concept of planetary health is that human activity is increasingly disrupting all of our planet’s natural systems…So even if our climate were entirely stable, we would be convening our community to address this growing concern that accelerating environmental change is driving a larger and larger burden of disease around the world.

Indeed, the field is emerging into the mainstream. New academic journals, like The Lancet Planetary Health, are being published, and universities are establishing academic centers to study it, such as the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin and the Global Health Academy at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Global Commons, Holistic View

During two days of panel discussions, Q&As, poster sessions, and networking opportunities, participants first looked at “who’s doing what, where” and explored cutting-edge research agendas and their findings.  Two members of the Climate for Health Leadership Circle were featured.

Our newest Leadership Circle member, Dr. Jonathan Patz, delivered the opening remarks at the dinner reception April 28 at the New England Aquarium. Dr. Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin, spotlighted the social, political and economic drivers of environmental change that, in turn, affect public health. “We need to view the earth’s natural resources as a global commons,” he emphasized.

The next morning, Dr. Howard Frumkin, a professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington, introduced the concept of planetary health and explained why its moment is now.   He traced the new epoch we live in, called the Anthropocene, which began with the widespread use of fossil fuels in the 19th century. Coal and oil power revolutionized society – but also disrupted natural systems on many levels. Its unintended impacts, Frumkin explained, have taught us that “we need to live within limits.”

(Comments run from 20:40 to 39:48.)

The second day’s sessions focused on how to apply planetary health science to public policy and suggested steps for positive change.  (See the full agenda here.)

Jennifer Tabola, Climate for Health’s senior program director, attended with her niece, Elizabeth (at right), a Boston-based first-year nursing student. She recalls, “In my higher education experience, I was frustrated to find that the lessons of the Industrial Revolution were explored one way in my economics class and a completely different way in my humanities class. Today, both perspectives and more are addressed by ecological economics, an emerging, more holistic version of the field that accounts for ‘natural capital’ and places a monetary value on ecosystem services. For Elizabeth, the call for drawing upon fields as diverse as wildlife biology and hydrology when fashioning health solutions will become second nature.”

Talking Points

At the closing session, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy provided some forthright advice on meeting the daunting challenge that is planetary health. It’s not easy to get people to reconsider the notion that humans are masters of the universe, she noted. Put another way: Our planet can bounce back from harm eventually, but “will people be in it?”

(Comments begin at 3:00.)

McCarthy, who now teaches a course in environmental leadership at Harvard, then offered strategic communication tips gleaned from her many years working in government.

When we talk about climate change and planetary health we need to:

  • Make it personal. Tell personal stories, and make a personal connection with your listeners.
  • Make it compelling. But “not so compelling that people don’t think they can fix it.”
  • Provide facts, not answers. People “want to be part of the solution.”
  • Think globally, act locally.  “Bottom up” –taking action at the community, regional, or state level — is the most effective path to wider change.
  • Hook it to health. Emphasize that there is no conflict between job creation and a life-sustaining environment. (Sick people “don’t work well!”)
  • Harness the power of information.  People will act if they are fully informed.

Looking Forward

The meeting’s formal goal was to catalyze the field and raise awareness among practitioners, funding agencies, publishers, and the broader academic and research community. Informally, according to participants, it served to forge professional and personal bonds upon which to build a community of practice. Climate for Health is now a part of that community, having joined as a member of the Planetary Health Alliance.

Jennifer Tabola, for one, walked away excited. “More than anything,” she said, “this conference underscored the increasingly urgent need for inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches and collective expertise to solve growing climate and health issues. The need for all minds and hands on deck reminded me of the Einstein quote I had up in my graduate school dorm at Harvard years ago: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’”  

Or as Gina McCarthy so eloquently put it, let’s “put on our big boy pants and keep moving forward!”

 

 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of May 21-27

This past week, the President traveled abroad for a two-day summit of the Group of Seven nations.  There members leaned on him to join the nearly 150 other countries that have already ratified the Paris climate accord. Trump also visited the Pope, who urged action and gave him a copy of Laudato Si, his climate encyclical. A decision is expected any day now.

The health sector continues to stand firm in support of the greenhouse-gas-reduction commitments:

“Leading U.S. health care systems remain committed to Paris agreement goals,” by Healthcare Without Harm

Back in Washington, D.C., budget proposals were rolled out that targeted funding for environmental protection and health programs, potentially undermining years of progress.

“EPA: Trump calls for cutting budget by 30%, slashing 3,800 jobs,” by Kevin Bogardus, E&E News

“Trump budget seeks huge cuts to science and medical research, disease prevention,” by Joel Achenbach and Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post

Meanwhile, Los Angeles’ mayor promised he’ll lead on climate by taking steps to meet the Paris obligations at the local level. At the state level, climate progress abounds:

“Obama’s clean power plan might be dead in D.C., but states are rebuilding it themselves,” by  Eillie Anzilotti, Fast Company

“Fighting Trump on climate, California becomes a global force,” by Coral Davenport and Adam Nagourney, The New York Times

“Hit hard by coal’s decline, eastern Kentucky turns to drones, tomatoes, solar energy,” by Arian Campo-Flores, The Wall Street Journal

Scientific research continued to clarify climate solutions as well:

“Eating beans could be a ‘magical’ solution to climate change,” by Eillie Anzilotti, Fast Company

“Climate stabilization: Planting trees cannot replace cutting CO2 emissions,” by Phys.Org (from the previous week…glad we spotted this!)

“Study: inspiring action on climate change more complex than you might think,” by John Abraham, The Guardian (another one that slipped under the wire)

And here’s some health news to help you prepare for summer:

“Health officials are warning this tick season could be the worst yet,” by Justin Worland, Time

On Thursday, be sure to visit our blog to read about what our Senior Program Director Jennifer Tabola experienced at the inaugural Planetary Health conference April 28-30. 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

 

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Ruth McDermott-Levy

During its Annual Meeting & Expo last fall, the American Public Health Association and Climate for Health’s parent organization, ecoAmerica, held the first-ever Learning Institute: “Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st-Century Climate for Health.”  (Our partners in this venture included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.) The goal: to help prepare participants to speak as leaders on climate and health impacts and solutions.

To expand the number of public health professionals who have the support they need to learn about the issues, ecoAmerica awarded Learning Institute scholarships to 10 individuals from all over the United States.  Boasting a diversity of backgrounds and experience, these “Climate Champions” will continue to work throughout the year to promote awareness of and engagement on climate change as a health priority. 

As part of this program, each month during 2017 the Climate for Health blog will publish a Q&A with one of our Climate Champions on how the Learning Institute inspired them and how they plan to integrate it into their work. Each blog will be keyed to the monthly theme of APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health. May’s theme is Air Quality and Lung and Heart Health. (Answers are an edited composite of information shared with us.)

This month’s champion is Ruth McDermott-Levy, an associate professor and director of the Center for Global & Public Health at Villanova University’s College of Nursing near Philadelphia, PA. She holds a Ph. D. in nursing education from Villanova and an M.P.H. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.  Ruth teaches and conducts research with a focus on global and environmental health, helping to educate students in linking how they live and work to air emissions and the changing climate.  She is also the Education Workgroup co-chairperson of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and a founding member of Protect PA.  

Ruth, what drew you to the Learning Institute?

I have been teaching about the health impacts of climate change for more than 15 years.  I have wanted to learn strategies to engage more people into action to protect human health and the health of our planet.  The Learning Institute was an opportunity to develop climate communication skills more fully and to network with other professionals who had the same concern about our changing climate on human health.

How would you summarize your Learning Institute experience, and what were your takeaways from the course?

For me, the most valuable takeaways from the Climate Change Learning Institute were the tools and skills to communicate air quality and climate risk to other professionals and the public. We need to avoid the “we are all doomed” approach that is typical of health professionals when they talk about any health risk, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease.  We need to change our approach and help people see that they can influence environmental impacts in ways that are useful and meaningful to them. This has made me rethink how I communicate any health risk.

How do you plan to apply what you’ve learned?

Using the communication strategies we learned during the APHA Learning Institute, I have added a section to my undergraduate public nursing course on communicating the risks of climate change.  We look at the evidence related to the effectiveness of risk communication and we also include the Yale University’s Climate Change Communication website, communication guides from Climate for Health, and the ecoAmerica website.

Given what you see in your work, why do you feel climate change is an important issue for other health professionals?

Climate changes health and the health of communities. I travel internationally and work in my own city of Philadelphia. Internationally, I have seen the impact of food shortages related to drought and changing weather patterns on the health of families and communities.  In Philadelphia, the air quality is frequently poor and we have the highest asthma rates in Pennsylvania. A 2016 study from NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management found that there were estimated 126 early deaths and 284 hospitalizations annually due to Philadelphia’s air pollution. Factors that influence these air pollutants, such as emissions from cars and trucks, lead to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

If we can improve our air quality, we can see immediate effects of decreased respiratory diseases and early death, and a healthier population. Health professionals must take a leadership role to advocate for policies that promote improved air quality. They should help people connect the dots by promoting less reliance on gas and diesel-powered transportation and more walking and biking for cleaner air and better overall health.

How would you recommend health professionals engage others on climate change?

First, I would recommend that other health professionals include an evaluation of their patients’ air quality during physical exams or assessments. This would include indoor and outdoor air quality. Furthermore, to develop leadership within the health professional community, I would recommend reaching out to organizations such as the American Public Health Association, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and other professional organizations to find mentors and experts to help them engage with their patients and policy makers related to climate change.

What are you currently doing to raise awareness and engagement around climate change?

 I educate undergraduate and graduate students in the impact of climate change on their health, the health of their communities, and on global health.  I have them look at the EPA’s air quality readings in their own communities and relate those finding to the health data in those communities.  Also, I am currently working on a community-based participatory research project related to environmental health educational needs for unconventional gas development (fracking) communities in Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of May 14-20

U.N. climate negotiations concluded in Bonn, Germany on Thursday with delegates pressing on despite the Trump Administration’s possible pulling out of the Paris pact. Nevertheless, Americans persisted in their commitment to stick with the agreement.

“UN climate talks wrap up under threat of US exodus,” by Mariëtte Le Roux, Phys.org

“Two governors urge Perry to help keep U.S. in Paris climate pact,” by Emily Flitter, Reuters

“Should the US stay in the Paris Agreement? A majority of Democrats and Republicans think so,” The Conversation

 

Fresh insights are emerging on how to think about climate change and our role in it:

“Taking the politics out of climate change,” by Christina Couch, NOVA Next

“Trump country is flooding, and climate ideas are shifting,” by Erika Bolstad, E&E News 

 

And states continue to act on their own:

“Defying Trump, these state leaders are trying to impose their own carbon taxes,” by Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

“New York threatens to spoil Trump’s push for fossil fuels,” by Stephen Cunningham, Bloomberg

 

Fascinating and actionable climate-and-health related research was released:

“When it’s hot, plants become a surprisingly large source of air pollution,” by Ashley Yeager, Science News

38,000 people a year die early because of diesel emissions testing failures,” by Damian Carrington, The Guardian

“A climate solution beneath our feet,” by UC Davis via The Washington Post

 

Coming up this week:

Global Green and Healthy Hospitals is sponsoring a webinar May 24, where top health and environmental specialists will discuss Climate Smart Healthcare. You can still register.

On Thursday, we’ll introduce you to another Climate Champion—watch our blog!

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

Challenging, but Worth It: Developing a Climate-Change Communication Workshop

Medical students often complain that we don’t have enough time to do the things we want to do (outside of coursework) because of medical school’s demanding curriculum.

With our schedules split between clinical rotations and applying to and preparing for residency, it’s hard to squeeze in time with family and friends, much less stay active in our communities. In my case, along with everything else, I’m preparing for my wedding in June!

Life always pulls us in different directions. Therefore, we must look for ways to balance our obligations with our interests. But it can be done.

 

An All-Day Climate Workshop

On Saturday, March 25, 2017, I hosted a climate-change communication workshop for medical students and health professionals. The goal: to increase health providers’ awareness of the health impacts of climate change, and to encourage attendees to go out and discuss the issue with others. Held at Des Moines University (DMU) in Des Moines, Iowa, the workshop spanned six- and-a-half hours to ensure a comprehensive overview of relevant topics, including:

  • an overview of climate science
  • the health impacts of climate change
  • global and local prevention and preparation strategies
  • environmental stewardship
  • climate communication

Guest included: 

Eugene Takle, Ph.D., a professor of atmospheric science and agricultural meteorology at Iowa State University and coordinating lead co-author of the agriculture chapter in the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment

Yogesh Shah, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.F.P., director of Palliative Care Services at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines and faculty member of Broadlawns’ Family Medicine Residency

Rebecca Shaw, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., chair, Department of Specialty Medicine, DMU

Laurel Whitis, M.P.H., a fourth-year medical student at DMU who happens to be my fiancée!

 

From Idea to Reality

I developed the idea for this workshop in the summer of 2015 while on rotation at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, where I was working in the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. In a conversation with my advisor, I explained my frustration with the lack of resources available to help physicians translate knowledge of the health impacts of climate change into action. I knew that I couldn’t be the only one with these concerns, and together we brainstormed ways to bridge the gap. We agreed that while formal medical education to train future physicians about the health effects of climate change is necessary, until the standard medical school curriculum includes this information, a training workshop might be the most effective means to reach medical students and health professionals.

Upon my return to the United States, I quickly realized that the demands of my third-year medical school curriculum were going to limit my ability to devote the necessary time and energy to developing the workshop. However, when I was presented with the opportunity to follow through with the project as part of my M.P.H. capstone, I managed to make it happen.

Although turnout was relatively low due to an unforeseen reduction in our advertising and recruitment period, the workshop was a success. Participants were split almost evenly between medical students and physicians, yielding a variety of perspectives for engaging conversations. The physicians’ experience and pragmatism were indispensable when discussing effective communication in clinical practice, while the students suggested innovative ways to connect with future patients. Through post-workshop surveys, attendees reported finding this educational format useful, and predicted that the workshop would be helpful in their academic and professional pursuits.

 

Lessons Learned

Beyond staging a successful workshop, I learned a great deal about the planning process, and about myself.  At first, I didn’t think I possessed enough knowledge to lead a meaningful workshop and teach fellow students, much less faculty, about the health impacts of climate change. And I doubted I was capable of organizing such a complex event. Organizing the workshop took nearly nine months, from drafting the project proposal to actually hosting the event, as I had specific curricular goals and timelines to adhere to while planning the project. However, I believed in my idea and wanted to see it through.

The most difficult part of this process was the initiation. Once I set my mind on the project, and convinced myself I had the ability to do it, I had no difficulty sending emails, researching, and preparing in the evening after my clinical shifts. I prioritized submitting applications and documentation that I knew would require me to wait for a response, then filled in this waiting period with the busy work. It was easy to sneak in time for emails while traveling, or while having downtime during the day. Not once did I have to sacrifice time with my fiancée or for running to allocate time for this project. Planning and hosting this workshop taught me that regardless of how busy our schedules can be, time is not the issue. We must convince ourselves we have the ability, and if we can do that, there’s so much we can accomplish.

 

Former Climate for Health intern Matthew Mueller attends medical school at Des Moines University in Iowa, where he is pursuing a dual Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Master of Public Health degree (DO/MPH). He will soon begin a residency in emergency medicine at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in metropolitan Detroit, MI. In his spare time, he enjoys distance running.

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of May 7-May 13

Last week, we got several pieces of good news on the climate politics front: 

“Trump administration delays decision on leaving climate pact,” by Coral Davenport and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

“Senate unexpectedly rejects bid to repeal a key Obama-era environmental regulation,” by Juliet Eilperin and Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

“U.S. endorses global action to curb greenhouse gases at Arctic summit,” by Megan Darby, Climate Home

 

Creative solutions were evident on the state and local level:

“Rahm Emanuel recoups climate change info deleted from EPA website,” by Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun Times 

“Chugach Alaska Corporation sells carbon credits to California,” by Kristin Butler, Indian Country Today

 

Researchers identified new strategies for communicating #climatefacts, and for quickly reducing greenhouse gases:

“Study: To beat science denial, inoculate against misinformers’ tricks,” by Dana Nuccitelli, The Guardian

“Policies to curb short-lived climate pollutants could yield major health benefits,” Science Daily

 

And now that the field of Planetary Health has been officially launched with last week’s conference, it’s time to think about implementing solutions.

Recently released conference videos can get you up to speed. Watch them here.

It’s all about taking the intiative–and in this coming Thursday’s blog, “Climate Champion” Matthew Mueller will share his experience leading a communications workshop for fellow medical students and others. 

 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments to Host Climate Change and Health Event for Nurses

Registration is now open for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE)’s Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action conference, to be held June 12-13 at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies in Washington, D.C.  With the support of sponsors Climate for Health and the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, ANHE is honored to hold its first conference bringing together nurses from all over the country to discuss the role of nursing in addressing climate change.

ANHE is a collaboration of individual nurses and nursing organizations operating on a virtual platform to connect and engage nurses across the country on environmental health issues.  The organization has a long history of working to address environmental issues that affect health, and has been most timely in working to amplify the nursing voice in discussions on climate change. ANHE believes that nurses are essential to addressing the climate crisis and bringing attention to the importance of public health as a climate action priority.

Consistently rated as one of the most trusted professionals over the past 15 years, nurses are in a unique position to bridge the gap between the science community and the public. They work in a variety of settings and are seeing the effects of climate change on health and the impacts of environmental health policy across all populations.  Nurses are also trained in educating patients and communities and in responding to questions on health with credible, evidence-based information. As public awareness of the relationship between the environment and health increases, nurses need to be prepared to respond to concerns with sound evidence. Thus, ANHE has made creating climate-literate nurses, elevating climate as a priority issue among organizations, and advising the profession on how to lead on policy and practice change a focus of our climate change initiatives.

Start of Nursing Consortium and Partnership with Climate for Health

The idea of connecting nursing organizations around the issue of climate change and health stemmed from ANHE’s Climate and Health Roundtable, held on May 25, 2016 (below, right). At this event, the White House, in partnership with ANHE, hosted representatives from 16 national nursing associations to discuss the need to foster strategies to fight climate change to protect public health.

During discussions, participants determined there was a need for unification among nursing organizations in responding to the climate crisis. From this need, ANHE and Climate for Health formed a Nursing Consortium on Climate Change and Health, with the goal of bringing together nursing specialties and subspecialties to create a unified voice and a coordinated response to issues relating to climate change.

The upcoming June conference will provide an opportunity for nurses to learn more about what climate change means for health and how individuals nurses and organizations can come together to address this health crisis.

Conference Details

Speakers will include Gina McCarthy, former U.S. EPA Administrator and one of the leading champions in the fight against climate change during the Obama Administration; Dr. John Balbus, leader of the National Institute of Environmental Health Science’s efforts on climate change and health; Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director of the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown Law; and various nurse leaders working on climate change. Also featured are ecoAmerica president Bob Perkowitz and Doug Glancy of the Climate Reality Project, who will be debuting the health and climate communications portion of a new climate and health leadership training program for health professionals.

At the conference, nurses will learn about the health problems posed by climate change, how the current United States policy agenda effects action on climate, and strategies for action to prevent and respond to climate change. Nurses will also have the opportunity to participate in an advocacy training to learn how to communicate the health message as it relates to climate change. Participants will then be able to utilize these skills in meetings with legislators on the second day of the conference. Nurses can view the full list of speakers and event details, as well as register to attend the event, here.

To learn more about ANHE, visit their website. ANHE has put together a variety of educational materials for nurses on environmental health issues, including their latest report, Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action, which aims to introduce nurses to climate science and provide solutions for addressing the issue within their own practices. For more information about environmental health topics, consult ANHE’s eTextbook Environmental Health in Nursing.

 

 

Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM, is executive director of Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of April 30-May 6

Pressure is mounting for America to #LeadOnClimate. As last week came to a close, political leaders, the international community, and his daughter Ivanka all were leaning on President Trump to stick with the Paris climate accord.

And after reversing course on nearly two dozen federal environmental rules, the administration was met with lawsuits challenging two of those rollbacks:

“Environmental groups sue Trump administration over off-shore drilling,” by Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

“Environmental groups sue EPA over rollback of [coal] pollution rule,” by Michael Biesecker, The Associated Press via The Seattle Times
 

In state and local news, a major city and all of California are committing to 100% clean energy within a generation:

“State Senate leader calls for 100 percent renewable energy by 2045,” by Ryan Levi, KQED

“Atlanta wants to use 100% clean energy by 2035,” by Maria Galucci, Mashable

 

The conservative community, and a university researcher, are exploring innovative ways to communicate successfully about climate:

“How to get the conservative climate message to Trump? Put it on TV,” by Carolyn Beeler, Public Radio International

“Professor presents solutions to climate change through video series,” by Deanna Necula, UCLA Daily Bruin

 

The health care sector is mounting ambitious new initiatives:

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

 

The People’s Climate March: Standing Up for Planetary Health

Saturday, April 29 brought some weird weather to Washington, D.C.: scorching, 90-degree temperatures. But for tens of thousands of dedicated people in the nation’s capital, the unseasonable heat seemed fitting for a People’s Climate March

The march’s mission was to unite the public on a single day to express their long-term commitment to removing barriers to a safe climate and a just society. This action-oriented goal was expressed in this slogan seen everywhere that day: “We Rise, We Build, We Resist.”

Multitudes with Messages

My husband and I happened to be visiting family in the area, so we decided to stay in a hotel on Capitol Hill. That made it easy to station ourselves at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street NW— the perfect vantage point from which to view the march when it kicked off a block away at 12:30 p.m.

We were well rewarded. Over the next two hours, about 200,000 marchers of all ages, from all over the country and all sectors, streamed by. They were organized into eight contingents. In order of appearance, they included:

  • “Protectors of Justice” (Indigenous peoples and frontline environmental justice communities)
  •  Creators of Sanctuary (immigrants, LGBTQ folks, women, Latinos, water keepers, food sovereignty and land rights advocates)
  • Builders of Democracy (labor, government workers, voting rights and democracy organizations)
  • Guardians of the Future (youth, parents, elders, students and peace activists)
  • Defenders of Truth (scientists, educators, technologists and the health community);
  • Keepers of Faith (religious and interfaith groups)
  • Reshapers of Power (economic justice, fossil fuel resistance, anti-nuclear; renewable energy; bicycling and clean transportation groups)
  • Many Struggles, One Home (environmentalists, climate activists, and others).

The mood was both earnest and festive, with plenty of humor and costumes on display. Popular slogans included “There Is No Planet B” and “Climate change doesn’t care if you believe in it” — as well as a fair share of unprintable political sentiments. Another often-seen image was drawings of the president’s Mar a Lago resort swallowed by rising seas. (You can check out some of the best signs, courtesy of The Washington Post.) But while the posters, banners, and T-shirts were diverse, the underlying message was the same: Climate change is real, and it is time to end our nation's reliance on polluting fossil fuels and transition to an equitable, clean-energy economy.

Interestingly, as they marched, the formal contingents began to overlap and blur, a metaphor for how climate change impacts us all– whoever we are and wherever we reside. Some groups are more vulnerable than others, which is why the Protectors of Justice initially led the parade.

The health care sector was well represented. Members of Physicians for Social Responsibility passed by just feet from me, carrying a banner almost as wide as the street. So did sign-bearing members of National Nurses United and the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance.  Black Doctors Against Climate Change, The New York State Nurses Association, the Maryland Environmental Health Network and many other practitioner groups also marched on Washington—check out their Twitter feeds for photos.

All of the participants were headed for the White House, which they then completely encircled. Sitting on the ground, they beat their hands against their hearts 100 times, symbolizing its occupant’s 100th day in office. And to punctuate their message: Act on climate now. (I didn’t witness this– but the president may have. According to NBC News, he was home at the time.) A rally followed at the Washington Monument, where ordinary people and celebrities alike shared stories, music, and artwork.  

The D.C. event was the nation’s largest climate march that day, but it was far from the only one. More than 300 sister marches took place in scores of other U.S. cities—including unseasonable Denver, where it snowed.  Health professionals were well represented there, too: among others, National Nurses United marched in Chicago; California Nurses marched in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego; and the Maine Nurses Union marched in Augusta.

Communication in Context

While 200,000 is an impressive number of people, the crowd on April 29 was half the size of the 2014 climate march in New York City. The smaller numbers might be attributed to the fact that only last week, some 40,000 attended the March for Science, held on Earth Day. (In the pouring rain!) While strongly focused on climate, the science march mainly emphasized the importance of basing policy on facts and continuing to fund the scientific enterprise. (This article from International Business Times explains the main distinctions between the two events.)

But also, peaceful demonstrations aren’t for everyone. As a past marcher at other events, I know that they provide a great sense of community and allyship (“I’m not alone!”). They also offer many opportunities for networking. For those comfortable with public speaking (whether at a podium or chanting slogans) or talented in visual or performing arts, marches offer an ideal platform for self-expression. News cameras are at the ready to record important messages and put a human face on sometimes abstract issues.

On the other hand, while marches (like those for civil rights) have historically been powerful tools for change, they are mainly symbolic. That’s why it’s important to pair them with more practical, ongoing strategies –to reach our leaders, and to lead in our everyday lives.  ecoAmerica and Climate for Health offer many resources to do just that, including reports and webinars for communicating with specific groups, and a new set of fact sheets to share with patients and peers. For those not ready to run for office or take to the streets, this type of advocacy allows us to better control our messaging and to fit them into our daily routines.

Were you at one of the climate marches April 29? If so, why not share it on social media with the hashtag #climatemarch? Don’t forget to tag @climateforhealth! We’d also love to hear what you did for Earth Day.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of April 23-29

From the White House to the streets of Washington, D.C. and beyond, environmental politics dominated the news this week.

President Trump signed two new executive orders seeking to open up more land and water to oil and gas drilling:

 

“How Trump’s monuments review could impact climate,” by Bobby Magill, Climate Central

“Trump presses for Arctic offshore oil opening,” by Ben LeFebvre, Politico

Pledges and policies to cut greenhouse gases are facing overhauls:

“Trump advisers want a better deal on Paris,” by Andrew Restuccia and Josh Dawsey, Politico

“Court freezes Clean Power Plan lawsuit, signaling likely end to Obama’s signature climate policy,” by Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

And a government agency deleted some important scientific data:

“EPA removes climate change information from website,” by Rene Mars, CNN

 

Let’s face it: That’s depressing, like the state of our Earth can sometimes feel. This story offered insights on how to cope:

“First step to ‘eco-grieving’ over climate change? Admit there’s a problem,” by Judy Fahys, National Public Radio

 

And there’s reasons for optimism: While the Executive and Judicial branches of our government were backing off climate commitments, the Legislative branch offered an ambitious bill to phase out dirty energy…

“Bernie Sanders takes aim at Trump on climate ahead of march in DC,” by Sabrina Siddiqui, The Guardian

…and state governments continue to lead on climate and health:

“California lawmakers push to link public health efforts to climate programs,” by Chris Megerian, The Los Angeles Times

“Study: Massachusetts carbon fee would save $2.9 billion in health costs over two decades,” by Shira Schoenberg, MassLive

 

We’ll leave you with perhaps the most inspiring news of all: On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans demonstrated their resolve to tackle the climate challenge, taking their creative messages to the streets:

“Climate march draws thousands of protesters alarmed by Trump’s environmental agenda,” by Nicholas Fandos, The New York Times

Watch for Thursday’s blog, where I’ll share my impressions (and more photos) of the D.C. march.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Sandra Whitehead

During its Annual Meeting & Expo last fall, the American Public Health Association and Climate for Health’s parent organization, ecoAmerica, held the first-ever Learning Institute: "Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st-Century Climate for Health.”  (Our partners in this venture included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.) The goal: to help prepare participants to speak as leaders on climate and health impacts and solutions.

To expand the number of public health professionals who have the support they need to learn about the issues, ecoAmerica awarded Learning Institute scholarships to 10 individuals from all over the United States.  Boasting a diversity of backgrounds and experience, these “Climate Champions” will continue to work throughout the year to promote awareness of and engagement on climate change as a health priority. 

As part of this program, each month during 2017 the Climate for Health blog will publish a Q&A with one of our Climate Champions on how the Learning Institute inspired them and how they plan to integrate it into their work. Each blog will be keyed to the monthly theme of APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health. April's theme is Transportation and Healthy Community Design. (Answers are an edited composite of information shared with us.)

This month's champion is Sandra Whitehead, director of program and partnership development for the National Environmental Health Association, where she and her team of subject-matter experts work to build the capacity of environmental health professionals. NEHA's  programs include:climate change, drinking water safety, health policy, and food safety.

Sandra, what drew you to the Learning Institute?

I have been involved with climate and health issues since 2007, when I worked for the state health department in Florida. We knew that climate was affecting health, but the science could only show correlations, not direct impacts. The science has gotten very specific since then. I’m always interested in learning the newest research, and the Institute instructors were national leaders in the area. I was also interested in learning how to better translate the science into useful ideas or communication tools for the more than 5,000 environmental health professionals NEHA serves.

How would you summarize your Learning Institute experience, and what were your takeaways from the course?

I was pleased to participate in the Learning Institute. The communication tools were especially useful in thinking about how to engage our members around climate change. It’s difficult to talk about the subject, especially when our membership is made up of folks from across the political spectrum. In particular, I gained insight on how to formulate messages around climate and health that would resonate with our members. I also benefitted from the understanding that other participants had trouble with crafting effective messages as well, and it’s not just a lack of understanding on my part.

How do you plan to apply what you’ve learned?

I’ve already begun to implement the steps to messaging and we’ve restyled our climate and health web page using the principles shared at the Institute.

Given what you see in your work, why do you feel climate change is an important issue for other health professionals?

Knowing the links between climate and health is important as we in public health talk about personal behaviors. Climate impacts health in profound and subtle ways. Think about your transportation choices. When you are able to bike or walk to destinations, you are not only getting part of your daily exercise, but also decreasing your greenhouse gas emissions, which directly affect air quality for those living near roads. Taking transit has similar effects. People who take the bus or train walk an average of one-quarter to one-half a mile to or from their stop, so you increase your wellness as well as minimizing your personal impact on those who may have asthma or other respiratory issues. 

How would you recommend health professionals engage others on climate change?

First, know the research. It’s easy for people to say that the links are “opinion.” There is 20 years of solid science behind what we do. Second, when you talk about climate and health, talk about how it impacts people. It’s easier to relate to how extreme heat effects impact our elders than to talk about melting ice caps and polar bears. Lastly, have good stories to share. Don’t talk about this issue in the abstract. Relate it to something people can feel, like asthma. Everyone knows someone with asthma who has issues breathing when the pollen counts are high. Talk about these linkages in a concrete and personal way.

What are you currently doing to raise awareness and engagement around climate change?

NEHA will have a whole day of programming at our annual educational conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from July 10 to July 13. We have sessions ranging from communicating with decision makers to how climate is impacting health and economics in the Great Lakes Regioon. We’re very excited about the track and hope readers will consider joining us.

 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of April 16-22

Climate change was front and center in the news this week, culminating in Earth Day and a March for Science in Washington, D.C. and other cities.

The health news site STAT livecast the D.C. event, where Climate for Health Leadership Circle member Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, was a featured speaker.

The New York Times Magazine devoted its entire issue to climate change, opening with this essay on coping with an altered world:

“Our Climate Future Is Actually Our Climate Present,” by Jon Mooallem (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for links to other articles, including one on vector-borne disease.)

All eyes were on the White House, as the President considered whether to keep the United States in the 2015 Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gases.  A decision is expected in May.

“Why Trump may stick with the Paris climate deal — and what it would mean if he did,” by Brad Plumer, Vox

“Policy advisers urge trump to keep U.S. in Paris climate accord,” by Coral Davenport, The New York Times

Our leaders in Washington may be climate “skeptics,” but people can be converted, as this story showed:

“Changing minds on a changing climate,” by Karin Kirk, Yale Climate Connections

Meanwhile, the health care community shared new knowledge to help us reach our patients and peers.

APHA’s Dr. Benjamin offered his expertise in this interview with Modern Healthcare: “Q&A: ‘Climate change is the greatest public health threat we have”

The American Lung Association published its 2017 State of the Air report.

And Climate for Health released two handy fact sheets: Changing Climate through Healthy Community Design and Transportation and Climate Changes Mental Health.

Please visit the blog again on Thursday, when we’ll introduce another Climate Champion from APHA’s Leadership Institute.  Meantime, if you want to catch your  climate and health news sooner, why not follow us on Twitter?  @Climate4Health

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

Short Sleeves in January: A Medical Student’s Journey to Understanding Climate and Health

This week, ecoAmerica intern Matthew Mueller (at left) shares his personal and professional experiences with climate change and its intersection with health care. In his one-month stint as an intern, he worked primarily with Climate for Health, reviewing data from partner organizations and assisting in the development of future projects.

Originally from Tracy, CA and currently a resident of Minneapolis, Matt did his undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota and attends medical school at Des Moines University in Iowa, where he is pursuing a dual Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Master of Public Health degree (DO/MPH). He will soon begin a residency in emergency medicine at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in metropolitan Detroit, MI. Matt is looking forward to providing care for the Downriver community and the city of Detroit. In his spare time he enjoys distance running, camping, and rock climbing, among other activities.

When I first moved from Northern California to the much cooler Twin Cities, I never imagined myself wearing multiple layers from head to toe without an inch of skin exposed, riding my bike in frigid temperatures I had only read about. Initially had no clue why anyone would want to subject themselves to that sort of punishment. Fast forward a few years, by which time I found my winter bike commute almost refreshing! Then, in January of 2012, I checked the weather before heading out the door (as any true Minnesotan does) only to learn that it was going to be a balmy 45˚F instead of the average 16˚F.

Growing up and living in two very distinctive regions – both of which emphasize the value of their natural environments – learning about climate change was disheartening, to say the least. However, climate change seemed like a distant threat to me, and polling shows I am not alone. I did not comprehend the severity of what was already occurring until I was wearing short sleeves in January. (Yes, Minnesotans wear short sleeves and they roll down their windows when the temperature is above freezing.) This warming trend has continued in recent years, and is being experienced globally. While warmer winter weather may feel nice when you’re accustomed to below-freezing temperatures, this shift, in addition to other climactic changes, is beginning to yield devastating consequences.

Medical School and Beyond

In the spring of my first year in medical school, I was helping plan the university’s medical service trip to the Dominican Republic when I was advised that our trip might be canceled if the Chikungunya epidemic in the region continued to worsen (see box, below). Our group was preparing to support a local nonprofit that provides healthcare and services to Dominicans and Haitians living near the border of the two countries. Fortunately, the disease incidence began to decline, and the following spring we arrived in Monte Cristi. After hearing the many stories of people still experiencing the lasting effects of the unprecedented Chikungunya outbreak, I truly began to understand the connection between climate and health.

While on rotation at the World Health Organization the following summer, I was challenged to explore the intimate connection between the built and natural environments. While viewing municipal policies through a public-health lens, I learned how emphasizing active transportation and clean energy in city design would not only improve community well-being, but also would save money. Improving my knowledge of how our actions can improve health, I have been encouraged to help others also understand this link.


Just last month, I hosted a climate communication workshop for medical students and health professionals at Des Moines University, where we discussed ways to talk with our patients about the health impacts of climate change. As I write this, I am in Washington, D.C. on a public-health rotation helping to develop climate-focused curricula for medical students while also working with local nonprofits to better understand how focused initiatives enhance the capacity of public health networks.

As I prepare to start my residency in just over two months, I hope to continue learning from my family, my friends, and my patients how the medical community can best support public health in the face of a rapidly changing climate. As a future physician, not only am I concerned about melting glaciers and polar bears, but I also worry about the health of my community. The health impacts of climate change are real. They are happening now, and with the benefit of my experiences I plan to continue establishing new connections in order to build a network of resilience in my new home.

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of April 9-15

This week, while the Federal Government pushed ahead on efforts to roll back progress on climate and health, most other sectors charged forward to implement positive solutions.

“What’s at stake in Trump’s proposed E.P.A. cuts?” by Hiroko Tibuchi, The New York Times

“Inside the renegade Republican movement for tackling climate change,” by Allesandra Potenza, The Verge

“Citizens’ Climate Lobby works to find solutions for climate change,” by Jason Hunsicker, Kirksville (MO) Daily Express

 

States and cities continue to demonstrate climate leadership:

“California is getting so much power from solar that wholesale electricity prices are turning negative,” by Cassie Werber, Quartz

“Florida makes case for climate research at Mar-a-Lago’s doorstep,” by Erika Bolstad, E&E News

“Portland [Oregon] commits to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050,” by Anmar Frangoul, CNBC

 

All of which are having a measurable impact:

“Electricity’s carbon footprint in U.S. shrinks, sets record,” by Bobby Magill, Climate Central

 

We still have many challenges ahead, but research is helping us better understand where and how climate, the environment, and health intersect.

“Where climate change is threatening the health of Americans,” by Jacqueline Howard, CNN

“Sea-level rise in California could be catastrophic, study says,” by Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle

“Trees, science and the goodness of green space,” by Lindsey Konkel, Environmental Health News

 

Climate for Health continues to spotlight leadership within the health professions.

Last Thursday, we published a powerful analysis and call to action on climate change, disease, and mental health by psychiatrist and Climate for Health Leadership Circle member Dr. Lise Van Susteren. You can read it here.

This coming Thursday, we’ll introduce you to guest blogger and Climate for Health intern Matthew Mueller, who will share what his medical school experiences have taught him about the links between climate and health, both here in the United States and abroad.

Meanwhile, we’ve extended the submission deadline for our Let’s Lead best practices guide to May 31.  We’d love to hear about your health organization’s climate-action success story. You can submit one here.

 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact Tim Kelly at [email protected]

 

Hold Your Breath

The following essay by Lise Van Susteren, M.D., originally appeared in the medical journal Clinical Psychiatry News. Dr. Van Susteren, a member of Climate for Heath’s Leadership Circle, is a psychiatrist in private practice in Washington, D.C.  She has special expertise in the psychological effects of climate change, and served as a peer reviewer of the March 2017 ecoAmerica-American Psychological Association report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. The report cites some of her research on the topic and includes her essay, “Our Moral Obligation:The Duty to Warn and Act.”

Dr. Van Susteren organized the first conference to focus on the psychological impacts of climate change, in 2009. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School's T.H. Chan School of Public Health; the Climate Energy and Environmental Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; and on the Board of Directors of Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. As a trained presenter on climate science and impacts, she speaks frequently to civic, educational, religious, labor, and environmental groups in the U.S.and abroad. Dr. Van Susteren is a frequent commentator on television and publishes a blog at the Huffington Post. She is also founder and CEO of Lucky Planet Foods, a company dedicated to providing low-carbon, plant-based, healthy foods for sustainable living.

 

In many areas of the world, the simple act of breathing has become hazardous to people’s health.

According to the World Health Organization, more people die every day from air pollution than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and road injuries combined. In China, more than 1 million deaths annually are linked to polluted air (76/100,000); in India the number of deaths is more than 600,000 annually (49/100,000); and in the United States, that figure comes to more than 38,000 (12/100,000).

Unhealthy air is primarily the result of burning “fossil fuels” – coal, oil, and gas – for energy, a deadly practice. It fills the air with harmful particulate matter that we breathe in, and it alters the chemistry of our atmosphere by releasing CO2, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas responsible for global climate instability.

And yet, nonpolluting, alternative options – such as sun and wind power – are readily available.

Dirty air is visible on a hot summer day – when, mixed with other substances, it forms smog. Higher temperatures can then speed up the chemical reactions that form smog. We breathe in that polluted air, especially on days when the air is stagnant or there is temperature inversion.

The health effects of climate change

Black carbon found in air pollution leads to drug-resistant bacteria and alters antibiotic tolerance. The pollution also is associated with multiple cancers: lung, liver, ovarian, and, possibly, breast.

It causes inflammation linked to the development of coronary artery disease (seen even in children!) and plaque formation leading to heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmias – including atrial fibrillation. Air pollution causes, triggers, or worsens respiratory illnesses – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, asthma, infections – and is responsible for lifelong diminished lung volume in children (a reason families are leaving Beijing.) Exponentially increased rates of autism are linked to bad air quality, as are autoimmune diseases, which also are on the rise. Polluted air causes brain inflammation – living near sources of air pollution increases the risk of dementia – and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The blood brain barrier protects the brain from most foreign matter, but particulate matter, especially ultrafine particulate matter of less than 1 mcm such as magnetite, can cross directly into the brain via the olfactory nerve. (Magnetite has been identified in the brain tissue of residents living in areas where the substance is produced as a result of industrial waste.) While particulate matter of 2.5 mcmis measured in the United States, ultrafine particulate matter is not.

Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.

– U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken in Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana vs. United States of America, et al.

 

Psychiatric symptoms and chronic psychiatric disorders also are associated with polluted air: On days with poor air quality, a statistically significant increase is seen in suicide threats and visits to emergency departments for panic attacks.

A rise in aggression occurs when there are abnormally high temperatures and significant changes in rainfall. More assaults, murders, suicides, domestic violence, and child abuse can be expected, and a rise in unrest around the world should come as no surprise.

As a consequence of increased CO2 in the atmosphere, temperatures have already risen by 2° F: Sixteen of the hottest years on record have occurred in the last 17 years, with 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded. In Iraq and Kuwait, the temperature last summer reached 129.2° F.

We are experiencing more frequent and extreme weather events, chronic climate conditions, and the cascading disruption of ecosystems. Drought and sea level rise are leading to physical and psychological impacts – both direct and indirect. Some regions of the world have become destabilized, triggering migrations and the refugee crisis.

Along with these psychological impacts, CO2 affects cognition: A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, shows that the indoor levels of CO2 to which American workers typically are exposed impair cognitive functioning, particularly in the areas of strategic thinking, information processing, and crisis management.

 

What do we do about it?

As mental health professionals, we know that aggression can be overt or passive (from inaction). Overwhelming evidence shows harm to public health from burning fossil fuels, and yet, though we are making progress, resistance still exists in the transition to clean, renewable energy critical for the health of our families and communities. When political will is what stands between us and getting back on a path to breathing clean air, how can inaction be understood as anything but an act of aggression?

This issue has reached U.S. courts: In a landmark case, 21 youths aged 9-20 years represented by “Our Children’s Trust” are suing the U.S. government in the Oregon U.S. District Court for failure to act on climate. The case, heard by Judge Ann Aiken, is now headed to trial.

All of us have a duty to collectively, repeatedly, and forcefully call on policy makers to take action.

That leads me to what we can do as doctors. In this effort to quickly transition to safe, clean renewable energy, we all have a role to play. The notion that we can’t do anything as individuals is no more credible than saying “my vote doesn’t matter.” Just as our actions as voters in a democracy demonstrate the collective civic responsibility we owe one another, so too do our actions on climate. As global citizens, all actions that we take to help us live within the planet’s means are opportunities to restore balance.

What we do collectively drives markets and determines the social norms that powerfully influence the decisions of others – sometimes even unconsciously.

As doctors, we have a unique role to play in the places we work – urging hospitals, clinics, academic centers, and other organizations and facilities to lead by example, become role models for energy efficiency, and choose clean renewable energy sources over the ones harming our health. We can start by choosing wind and solar to power our homes and influencing others to do the same.

We are the voices because this is a health message.

 

Full references for this essay can be found here.

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of April 2-8

Last week, the Trump Administration was touting a revival of dirty energy and the federal Bureau of Land Management even briefly changed its homepage image to a pile of coal. But the health — and even political risks — of sticking with "dinosaur" fuel have been growing increasingly clear to the financial, medical, and energy sectors:

 “Trump's coal revival will make it harder to breathe,” by the Editorial Board, Bloomberg

 “Wealth didn’t matter. Pollution from a coal-fired plant, carried miles by wind, still hurt their babies,” by Darryl Fears, The Washington Post

“U.S. coal companies ask Trump to stick with Paris climate deal,” by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

 

And while the President pulled back from helping local governments prepare for the effects of climate change…

“Trump order targets local efforts to adapt to warming,” by John Upton, Climate Central

 

…cities like New York continue to move forward on sustainable solutions:

“Mayors will lead on climate change for political gain, says ex-NYC mayor,” by Sebastien Malo, Reuters

“Preparing for the future using lessons from Hurricane Sandy,” by David W. Dunlap, The New York Times

 

Meanwhile, industrial ingenuity is cutting carbon from our electricity grid and water infrastructure:

“More renewable energy for less: Capacity grew in 2016 as costs fell,” by Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News

“How new technologies are shrinking wastewater’s hefty carbon footprint,” by Erica Gies, Ensia

 

Last but certainly not least, the health care sector was out in front this week, with The Lancet debuting the first issue of a new publication, Planetary Health. It included this article on the effects of drought on elderly populations:

“Drought and the risk of hospital admissions and mortality in older adults in western USA from 2000 to 2013: a retro-spective study,” by Jesse D. Berman et al.

On April 5, Climate for Health partner the American Public Heath Association held its annual TwitterChat in honor of National Public Health Week, during which the health community shared rapid-fire ideas on topics including climate readiness. Check it out on their Twitter feed: @PublicHealth

Finally, we have continued to receive in-depth press coverage of the Mental Health and Our Changing Climate report. The state-of-the-art study and webinar, a collaboration of ecoAmerica, Climate for Health, and the American Psychological Association, were the subjects of our blog April 6.

This Thursday, look for a highly relevant essay from guest blogger Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a member of the Climate for Health Leadership Circle.

 

 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

Updated Report & Webinar Open Dialogue on Climate Change and Mental Health

On March 29, ecoAmerica, Climate for Health, and the American Psychological Association released a new report, "Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance." Building on the lessons of “Beyond Storms and Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change,” the study details the latest peer-reviewed research findings on the acute and chronic psychological impacts of climate change on individuals, families, and society; how these psychological impacts interact with physical health; and how best to prepare for and recover from those effects by building personal and community resilience.

The same day, we debuted a free, one-hour webinar summarizing the report’s key points and providing a Q&A session with the webinar’s hosts: study co-author Susan Clayton, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at The College of Wooster; Howard Kurtzman, Ph.D., the American Psychological Association’s acting executive director for science; Meighen Speiser, ecoAmerica’s chief engagement officer; and Jennifer Tabola, Climate for Health’s senior director.

Key Insights

The first part of the webinar provided an overview of the study’s methods and findings. Among the top insights:

  • Mental health impacts of climate change come from both changes in climate itself and the effects of rising temperatures.
  • These effects can be sudden and dramatic, such as natural disasters and extreme heat. Hurricane Katrina, for example, resulted in many cases of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Heat waves are associated with aggression and even violence. The need to relocate from areas so affected can also fracture family and community ties, which are important to mental and physical health.
  • More gradual, less obvious climate effects, such as sea level rise and drought, affect our familiar surroundings and alter our lifestyles, jobs, and diets, causing a sense of loss of control that can breed depression and anxiety.
  • New mothers, children, the elderly, and members of disadvantaged and indigenous communities are likely to suffer disproportionately from these impacts.

The second part of the webinar focused on constructive solutions, emphasizing that the same sustainability initiatives that benefit climate and physical health–such as bicycle commuting and shoring up the human connections that help us bounce back from stress and emergencies–also boost our mental health. Key take-homes included tips especially for mental health professionals, which are targeted at prevention:

  • Become climate–mental health literate. Besides reading the Mental Health and Our Changing Climate report itself, one can refer to numerous articles resources listed at the end
  • Engage fellow public and mental health professionals, inviting them to join you in doing something about climate change and mobilizing your professional associations for greater impact
  • Become a vocal leader, acting as a role model within your community and educating the public and elected leaders about climate and mental health
  • Support national and international climate–mental health solutions by joining campaigns, through your research, and by reaching out through public forums

Finally, a Q&A period gave listeners a chance to ask questions of the webinar’s leaders. They included the following, which have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Dr. Kurtzman, are you hearing from American Psychological Association members who are encountering more climate-related mental health issues with their patients in clinical practice?

A: Anecdotally, my colleagues and I have heard of such cases, and we are beginning to understand that climate change may be a factor that was not fully appreciated in the past and that we certainly have to be concerned about in the future.

Q: As a follow-up, has the APA taken a position in support of climate change action, and has it committed resources to pre-professional and in-service training on the topic?

A: APA does have a formal policy resolution about climate change and its impacts on health, and we have called on the psychology community to encourage more continuing education courses on it and to help people learn more about research in this area at our conventions.

Q: Dr. Clayton, Are there specific mental health impacts related to others’ denial of climate science, and any methods for reducing them?

A: We don’t know yet, because people are only just beginning to think about these types of diffuse impacts of climate change. I think it’s part of the problem that we don’t face up to the issue and acknowledge it. It’s like the child with the monster under the bed: if you don’t look at and accept what’s happening, it’s even scarier. Denial makes it hard for people to talk about it and makes it seem more unpredictable and less within our control.

Q: Is there a healthy way to engage with people who deny climate change, or is it better for our mental health to avoid those discussions?

A: (Kurtzman) There’s an individual difference variable there. For some people who feel they can engage, that can be very satisfying; for others it can be anxiety provoking. People need to gauge what works for them and consider alternative ways to communicate our knowledge on this issue, such as by writing a blog or talking to a classroom. 

(Clayton) This illustrates the social nature of our discussions about climate change –it’s something that defines social groups and it’s very conflictual as a result. It’s not a good idea to confront people directly because the resulting debate will just solidify them in their position. What can be effective is trying to find common ground, such as a shared concern about health or energy independence.

(Speiser) Also, we need to focus on solutions, and how they benefit both our health and mental health. This conversation has often been reduced to whether you’re “for or against” climate change, because people disagree on the solutions. Knowing that there are a plethora of accessible solutions really serves to shift the conversation.

Leveraging New Knowledge

The report and webinar have gained extensive media coverage over the past week. Nearly two dozen articles were published in mainstream news publications such as The Washington Post, Time, and Newsweek; in science news outlets such as Inside Climate News, Popular Science, and Quartz; and in health news outlets including Everyday Health, Psychology Today, and Healio. Several outlets framed the report in the larger context of the Trump administration’s recent rollbacks of the Clean Power Plan and other rules safeguarding the environment.

These headlines bring important information and advice to millions of new readers who may realize they are not alone in their “eco-anxiety.” They also offer health professionals an opening to talk to their patients and peers about the emotional impact of climate change. In addition, we can use this moment to wield the “power of the press” by, for example, writing an op-ed for a local paper on the links between climate change, physical health, and mental health or by making ourselves available to reporters as an expert source.

Read and Listen Now!

You can download a copy of the "Mental Health and Our Changing Climate" report here.

Climate for Health, in collaboration with the American Psychological Association and the American Public Health Association, has also created a new set of “Climate Changes Mental Health” facts sheets, suitable for distribution in your work on this issue. We will update this blog with a link to it very soon.

Why not watch the webinar right now? Just click on the arrow.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of March 26 to April 1

It was hard to miss President Trump’s Executive Order on March 28, which essentially “repealed and replaced” the Obama Clean Power Plan and its strict goals for reducing carbon emissions from dirty energy. At the signing, he pledged to revive the coal industry, a move energy experts and utilities questioned, given the momentum of solar and wind power these days.

“Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama’s climate change record,” by Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

The White House’s dismantling of climate policy is predicted to have health consequences, experts say:

“Trump's climate order threatens U.S. disaster prevention” by Sophie Hares, Reuters

 “War on climate policy is also a war on public health,” by Julia Belluz, Vox

The good news: More conservative politicians are moving in the right direction on climate change.

“Climate converts: The conservatives who are switching sides on warming,” by Marc Gunther, Yale Environment 360

So are  U.S. states, by restricting fossil fuels and their emissions, and continuing to take positive action on clean energy:

“Fracking ban about to become law in Maryland,” by Sabrina Shankman, Inside Climate News

“California adopts strictest methane rule in the nation,” by Rob Nikolewski, San Diego Union Tribune

Hundreds of clean energy bills have been introduced in states nationwide this year,” by Zahri Hirji, Inside Climate News

New scientific research is revealing positive links between climate action and better health:

“Low-carbon energy boosts human, ecological health,” by Sarah DeWeerdt, Anthropocene

“Healthier diet links U.S. food and health care systems in climate change mitigation,” Climatic Change, via  FoodTank

Meanwhile, there’s been plenty of action (as usual!)within our organization. For example:

In last week’s blog, we debuted a series of Q&As with the ten “Climate Champions,” public health practitioners awarded scholarships to attend the Learning Institute on climate and health at the American Association of Public Health's annual conference last fall. Our first young leader was Chelsea Schafer; look for the next Q&A later this month.

On March 29, Climate for Health’s parent organization, ecoAmerica, in collaboration with the American Psychological Association, released its new report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, and held a free, one-hour webinar delving into its contents. The report received extensive coverage in the news media, including The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, and many other outlets. Look for more about the report and webinar in Thursday’s blog.

 

 

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

 

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Chelsea Schafer

During its Annual Meeting & Expo last fall, the American Public Health Association and Climate for Health’s parent organization, ecoAmerica, held the first-ever Learning Institute: "Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st-Century Climate for Health.”  (Our partners in this venture included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.) The goal: to help prepare participants to speak as leaders on climate and health impacts and solutions.

To expand the number of public health professionals who have the support they need to learn about the issues, ecoAmerica awarded Learning Institute scholarships to 10 individuals from all over the United States.  Boasting a diversity of backgrounds and experience, these “Climate Champions” will continue to work throughout the year to promote awareness of and engagement on climate change as a health priority. 

As part of this program, each month during 2017 the Climate for Health blog will publish a Q&A with one of our Climate Champions on how the Learning Institute inspired them and how they plan to integrate it into their work. Each blog will be keyed to the monthly theme of APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health. (Answers are an edited composite of information shared with us.)

 

Meet Chelsea Alexandra Schafer, a graduate research assistant with the Institute for Community Health & Wellbeing at California State University, Northridge. She is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree with an emphasis in epidemiology and environmental health sciences.

Chelsea, what drew you to the Learning Institute?

I wanted to increase my level of confidence on how to speak to political representatives, while also extending my professional network.

How would you summarize your Learning Institute experience, and what were your takeaways from the course?

The Learning Institute has enhanced my previous level of understanding in shaping media messages on climate change initiatives. Some key insights I gained included properly phrasing my level of concern about values in a way that connects with my target audience, and the importance of providing solutions.

How do you plan to apply what you’ve learned?

The message of using green space to help offset carbon really resonated with me. In my work, I have been recommending integrating greenery, such as moss, grass, or living roofs/walls into built spaces, including both existing architecture and new construction sites.

Given what you see in your work, why do you feel climate change is an important issue for other health professionals?

Climate change is a serious concern, yet it continues to receive backlash felt on a global scale. We must become educated on the topic in order to sway people’s opinions, especially those who are in a position of political power, so that they can make real change happen.

How would you recommend health professionals engage others on climate change?

We should try our best to convey meaningful stories to strengthen support for our ideals. I found ecoAmerica’s 15 Steps to Create Effective Climate Communications, together with Let’s Talk Health & Climate: Communication Guidance for Health Professionals, are a great resource on how to do this.

The Year of Climate Change and Health theme this month is Clean Energy. How do you connect your experience at the Learning Institute with your own experiences and goals as a public health professional?

The Learning Institute confirmed my impression that there needs to be a major call to action on clean energy efforts. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, power generation is a leading cause of air pollution and the single largest source of U.S. global warming emissions, and the energy choices we make at this point in history will have consequences for our health, our climate, and our economy for decades to come. So we must choose renewable energy sources in order to live cleaner, safer, and healthier lives. That means it’s our responsibility to develop stronger infrastructure and to properly assess, address, implement, and evaluate these issues.

On a personal level, it reinforces what I learned during my time as a fellow for the non-profit Saha Global International [see photo at right]. The organization works to empower women of rural Ghanaian communities in becoming leaders by providing business development opportunities and improved access to clean water and electricity. My team and I were able to successfully launch a water purification business providing safe drinking water to the entire community of Mahmuruyili, as well as to help provide solar power to other rural villages. The ability to travel and be a field representative of the organization allowed me to speak with local people face to face and hear their experiences first hand. These conversations are critical to drive future changes and implementation of new energy sources in our rapidly altering global environment.

What are you currently doing to raise awareness and engagement around climate change?

I am getting involved with sustainability research on the Cal State-Northridge campus and hope to provide published research related to climate change and sustainability justice. I also intend to raise awareness in all areas of my life.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

Inspiring the Next Generation of Physicians to Prioritize Climate Change as a Health Issue

Climate change is an issue that is increasingly impacting the health of our population, as we see the far-reaching and sometimes drastic effects take hold. Longer allergy seasons, wider-spread and more severe vector-borne disease prevalence, and more frequent and erratic extreme weather events are a few examples of how environmental factors related to climate change are affecting physical and mental health outcomes. As debates rage on in our political landscape over climate change, physicians, meanwhile, report that climate change is a real issue their patients face today and they need information on how to confront this issue for the health and wellbeing of their patients. 

The next generation of physicians feels this pressure acutely, as they worry not only for their future patients, but also for themselves, their families, and their communities, as the projected future is often grim if we do not take serious action to address climate change. As one of America’s most trusted professionals, they have an opportunity – and some of them may see it as a responsibility – to take on this urgent issue and help elevate it to the public eye. 

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is a student-governed, national organization committed to representing the concerns of physicians-in-training. Their members are a vital force of future physicians who believe that patients and health professionals are partners in the management of health care, and that student idealism can be transformed into meaningful public service, innovation, and institutional change. Recognizing the essential role that the young generation of health care providers has in grabbing hold of the momentum we are building amongst today’s leaders, Climate for Health (CfH)  is excited to partner with AMSA in visible national leadership, building climate-literate professionals, engaging all stakeholders in this important issue, and building collective support and action for climate solutions. 

AMSA invited us to speak at their annual meeting on February 25, 2017 in Crystal City, VA. Knowing what we do about the efficacy of peer-to-peer education amongst medical professionals, we invited Nathaniel DeNicola, MD, MSHP, FACOG to speak with us to this audience of mostly medical students. Dr. DeNicola is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at The George Washington University and serves as the Liaison for the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Executive Council on Environmental Health. He explains, “The more closely we look at childhood diseases caused by environmental toxics, the more we realize many of these really begin during pregnancy or during preconception care. Having the ob/gyn’s work hand-in-hand with the pediatricians on these exposures has been a tremendously valuable relationship.” Dr. DeNicola is a leader amongst physicians on the issue of climate change and health, and we were thrilled that he accepted our invitation. 

We presented to a group of passionate, curious, and engaged students about:

  • Health impacts of climate change, focusing in on global issues like infectious disease and air pollution
  • CfH program goals, strategies, communications frameworks, and available resources
  • Opportunities for engagement for physicians and medical students
  • Ways to influence change as a physician through clinical practice, behavior, and infrastructure
  • Ways to engage patients and peers in solutions and mitigation strategies

Participants were curious to know how best to incorporate climate change solution education and advocacy into their work and training as practicing physicians. “From air pollution to heat stress to toxic chemical exposures, nearly every physician has something they can talk about with their patients. The key first step is simply asking the questions, then the value of the environmental health history flows very naturally," says Dr. DeNicola. “In terms of advocacy – it is clear that policymakers need trusted sources of factual health information, and physicians should consider this part of their role in contributing to a well-informed citizenry.”

The next generation of physicians is an extremely important target audience as we look to the future for leadership on emerging health impacts of climate change and worsening health outcomes for patients (especially vulnerable populations). We look forward to working with AMSA and other important partners, including ACOG and AAP, as we build leadership in the health sector. 

Year of Climate Change and Health: ‘Clean energy’ is focus for March

This post first appeared on APHA's Public Health Newswire 

2017 is the Year of Climate Change and Health, a 12-month APHA-led initiative to raise awareness of the health impacts of climate change and to mobilize action. Each month will focus on a different aspect of climate change as it relates to health. The theme for March is clean energy. APHA’s Surili Patel discusses the role of energy in climate change and outlines action steps to reduce its impact.

Climate is always changing. It has been from the beginning of time. What is causing it to change more rapidly than expected is human activity. When we burn fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, we release carbon dioxide. CO2 builds up in the atmosphere and causes Earth’s temperature to rise, much like a blanket traps in heat. This extra trapped heat disrupts many of the interconnected systems in our environment.

What does this mean for our health?

The accelerated changes in the climate are inextricably linked to our health. As the Earth’s temperature rises, surface water temperatures in lakes rise creating a more hospitable environment for some harmful algae and other microbes to grow. Climate change also leads to heavier downpours and floods. Health is affected as the air we breathe is less healthy. Higher temperatures lead to an increase in allergens and harmful air pollutants. For instance, longer warm seasons can mean longer pollen seasons, which can increase allergic sensitizations and asthma episodes and diminish productive work and school days. And these are just a few examples.

What can we do?

Simple: invest in clean energy solutions. Clean, or renewable, energy comes from sources like wind, hydro, geothermal heat and solar. These are considered to be renewable sources of energy because they are replenishable. Unlike mining and burning dirty coal and fracking for natural gas, renewable and sustainable sources of energy do not leave lasting and devastating impressions on our environment and health.

The how is where it gets tricky. We need more investments in research and innovation that make fossil fuel energy technologies cleaner and less harmful to people and the environment. We also need to use more renewable sources of energy as a country.

As consumers, we can reduce our carbon footprint — the total amount of greenhouse gases produced directly and indirectly during the course of daily activities — by:

  • driving less, taking mass transit, walking and biking;
  • performing regular maintenance on your vehicle, if driving;
  • recycling more and using reusable items such as water bottles, grocery bags, plate wear and cutlery;
  • turning the thermostat up in summer and down in winter;
  • replacing incandescent lightbulbs with energy-saving bulbs; and
  • washing clothes in cold water and drying them using a drying rack rather than the dryer.

As a society, we need to collectively:

  • support equitable policies that create infrastructure for safer mass transit and active transportation options;
  • promote policies that incentivize the affordability of energy efficient appliances, vehicles and business practices;
  • defend federal regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan, that put carbon pollution limits on power plants; methane emissions restrictions for oil and gas facilities; more protective ozone pollution standards; pollution emission standards for vehicles; and much more;
  • create more clean energy jobs to replace those lost by shutting down outdated coal-fired power plants; and
  • support the development of domestic renewable energy production and win the global race for clean energy innovation.

As reducing our carbon footprint is a collective effort, so is working toward a greener energy economy.

Get involved today! There are many ways to join the Year of Climate Change and Health. Here are just a few:

  • share your clean energy resources with us via email at [email protected];
  • attend and promote climate change and health events as they become announced; and
  • get out in your community to raise awareness of the connections between climate change and health.

APHA’s climate change page is your home for all the latest information on the Year of Climate Change and Health, including resources on clean energy. The year culminates with APHA’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo that will focus on climate change and health.

Local Engagement on Climate Solutions Makes Big Impacts

Our research and experience tell us the best way to inspire broad engagement and public support on climate across a large swath of Americans is to connect the issues to them personally. As professionals working on climate change, there are several ways we can make climate change more personally relevant: 

  1. Make climate impacts more salient, visible, and linked to everyday life. 
  2. Present proven, unambiguous solutions that benefit the economy, our health, and our security.
  3. Empower individuals, communities, companies, etc. to act with accessible options which contribute to solutions, like urban bike share programs and local produce.
  4. Build on the moral imperative and responsibility to our children, families, and communities

The Climate & Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) is doing exactly this in New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. CUSP is a group of informal science educators, climate scientists, learning scientists, and community partners, funded by the National Science Foundation to explore innovative ways to educate city residents about climate change. In Philadelphia, led by the Franklin Institute, CUSP works with 60 local partners to engage city residents on the issue. They have relied on research conducted by our parent organization, ecoAmerica, to build their own framework for climate solutions. Richard Johnson, CUSP Senior Project Manager, explains, "ecoAmerica's research was instrumental in helping us craft our approach to climate change education. When we connected with them, it was funny, because here we were; these four northeast cities who had been experimenting with their research on a hyper-local scale for years, with great results to show for it. We’re really glad to have created a stronger relationship with them recently, and look forward to how their work will inform ours moving forward, and vice-versa.” Utilizing an approach that is “Local, Relevant, and Solutions-Focused,” CUSP maintains an open invitation to any local group who wants to work on climate change outreach, more effectively and more often. 

CUSP Philadelphia also has a mini-grants program, which funds a diversity of projects, from the “Climate Disrupted Art Festival & Show,” a festival and gallery show at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education which combined visual art, music, performance, and community education to foster conversations about what attendees can do to be ready for climate change, to the “Climate Change Solutions for Community Health, Beautification, and Safety,” which provided community education to families living near Rainbow de Colores Park on climate change, public health, and the local environment. All of the projects are led by collaboration between a wide range of local partners, leading to a diversity of participation and engagement, in order to maximize community impact. 

On the topic of personal connections for effective engagement, health is personally relevant to all of our lives, so it can be a critical element of climate messaging. Climate for Health was invited to speak in to a meeting of CUSP Philadelphia partners and stakeholders about our program. To one of the most well attended meetings of its kind, we presented on ecoAmerica’s mission, our theory of change, and our programs; the health impacts of climate change; the importance of personally relevant climate messaging and the critical role the health care provider can play as a trusted messenger in community-based work; and how to effectively communicate on climate solutions. The audience was very interested in the mental health impacts, especially, of climate change and how those may be adversely impacting the specific communities they are working with within Philadelphia. They were also excited to learn about the interest and momentum in the health sector around climate change. We look forward to continuing to work with CUSP to help build these relationships between health care professionals and other local stakeholders. 

After the presentation, I was given the opportunity to explore the Franklin Institute and their special exhibits, Robot Revolution and Jurassic World. A perfect ending to an inspiring day!

 

 

Jane S. Chang is the Program Manager for the Climate for Health Program. She has eight years of experience working with the health sector on the impacts of environment on our health and teaching the importance of communty engagement in successful public health programming. 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of Feb. 25-Mar. 3

The Climate & Health Meeting in Atlanta on February 16 brought together more than 300 health professionals, scientists, climate advocates, and public officials for a day of discussions about the health impacts of climate change and how to address them. Our own Jennifer Tabola was there (you can read her account of the event here).

Dr. Howard Frumkin, Dean and Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health and former director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, co-authored this recap of the summit:

Preventive Medicine for the Planet and Its Peoples Multiple authors, New England Journal of Medicine

One of the day’s panelists, Climate for Health leader Dr. Lise Van Susteren, explained the mental health impacts of climate change:

"A sense of despair": The mental health cost of unchecked climate change by Shanika Gunaratna, CBS News 

 

Also this week, new research revealed American opinions about climate change, broken down by geography:

Maps Show Where Americans Care about Climate Change by Erica Bolstad, ClimateWire

Climate Change Is a Threat – But It Won't Hurt Me, Americans Say by J.D. Capelouto, Reuters

 

Another study found that taking a position on policy doesn’t necessarily affect a scientist’s credibility:

Scientists have long been afraid of engaging in ‘advocacy.’ A new study says it may not hurt them by Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

 

And yet another study found that polluted air is associated with premature births:

Air pollution affects preterm birthrates globally, study finds By Jia Naqvi, The Washington Post

 

Spring arrived early across the nation, and the U.S. Geological Survey says climate change is to blame:

The Early Spring This Year Is Brought to You by Climate Change by Jen Kirby, New York Magazine

 

Nonetheless, the Trump administration plans to cut the EPA’s budget by one quarter:

Trump to Propose 24 Percent Cut in EPA Spending: Reports by Devin Henry, The Hill

 

On the plus side, oil and gas companies are discovering the economic benefits of trapping methane (a powerful greenhouse gas):

Energy companies are learning that methane trapping is good business by Jason Libersky, The Albuquerque Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevertheless, They Persisted: Resuscitating a National Climate and Health Teach-In

Our nation’s leading climate and health experts (as far as we know) did not go so far as appropriating the now iconic phrase, “s/he persisted,” and memorializing it in ink across their biceps in a nod to Senator Elizabeth Warren. All the same, an air of determination and energetic comradery filled the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta this February, when nearly 350 academics, climate scientists, physicians, nurses, and public and environmental health professionals transferred their RSVPs from an abruptly cancelled, three-day CDC event to a rapidly reconfigured, jam-packed, one-day national Climate & Health Meeting.

The substitute meeting was endorsed in record time by over 50 health organizations, funded in part by the Turner Foundation, and re-organized by former Vice President Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project, the American Public Health Association, the Harvard Global Health Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute, The University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment, plus a small cadre of health luminaries, including Climate for Health Leadership Circle member Dr. Howard Frumkin, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, who temporarily abandoned a sabbatical in Europe to ensure the show would go on, and Dr. George Luber, epidemiologist and Chief of the Climate and Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who undoubtedly against doctor’s orders, fought through a bad (but presumably no longer contagious) bout of the flu to share how CDC-funded cities and states are piloting new strategies to prepare for and prevent climate-related health impacts at the community level. Also appearing as a surprise guest host was President Jimmy Carter, whose advocacy of cardigan sweaters and solar panels while in the White House now seems even more prescient – and clean energy leadership all the more authentic – as he launches a new "solar farm" in place of soybeans and peanuts that is capable of powering up to half of his hometown in Plains, Georgia.

Impacts, Investments, and Innovations

Former Vice President Gore, regarded by many as being the first to raise widespread awareness and provoke action on climate change, kicked the event off with a 360-degree, evidence-based tour de force, inviting leading national and international climate and health scientists to the stage. These experts shared the latest research findings about the many ways a changing climate is already affecting our health, and projected the data forward to help predict what could be ahead for future generations, depending upon which carbon-emission scenarios and subsequent temperature changes prevail, alongside the levers of technological interventions, renewable energy, behavior change, and policy at all levels. The panelists laid out the increasingly familiar but still expanding list of known climate change and human health impacts, ranging from asthma, heart disease, stroke, malnutrition, and injury, as well as the mental health implications linked to the intensification of stress and anxiety that can lead to higher rates of depression, anger, and even violence.

Former Vice President Gore also expressed deep concern about the need for continued investment in research at all levels to generate the climate data upon which sound public health planning, preparation, and adaptation depends. Gore especially highlighted the critical and unique role our nation’s universities play in conducting ongoing research that not only helps us to more accurately assess climate impacts, but also drives the technological innovations required for a clean-energy, sustainable future.

Reflecting upon the litany of health impacts illustrated by the colorful gallery of graphs and charts filling the day’s screens, Gore recounted how America’s research universities essentially operate under a contract with the American people: “We, as academics, commit to working on the most pressing social issues,” and in turn, “the American people, through their support for government, commit to supporting the climate research that has necessarily ‘revolutionized science.’” Gore further noted that this reciprocity had reinforced America’s intellectual and moral leadership in the world. He implored the audience to do everything possible to ensure these funding commitments would not be abandoned as the need grows to have credible, evidence-based research to guide our response to climate change and its impact on health.

Reflecting the decision to provide an all-access, free, live webcast of the event, Gore underscored that becoming smarter about protecting and promoting health could not be confined to climate scientists. He noted that institutions of higher education also now have an irrefutable obligation to ensure that “all students across all disciplines who walk through the halls of all our colleges and universities understand the science of climate change and its linkages to public health.” Beyond this, Gore implored academics, scientists, and health professionals to do a better job of communicating the science, and helping policymakers and the general public understand what is at stake, the true costs of inaction, and the viable options for reducing climate threats and promoting health and well-being.

Putting a Human Face on Climate Change

Fittingly, the meeting concluded with a session focused on the need to reach people left unmoved by “the plight of penguins and polar bears” by shifting to talking about people and their health. Gore emphasized a fresh conviction that focusing on this missing “p” – people – may be the most powerful way of making the stakes of climate change real. Quoting the words of Michelle Williams, Dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “Health is the human face of climate change,” Gore called upon health professionals to step forward and mobilize Americans to practice “enlightened self-interest.” By supporting climate solutions, people can act in their own interests at the same time that they act on behalf of their families, communities, all humankind, and yes, even our planet. 

The takeaway message was that placing health at the center of climate change policy and communications can be a game-changer. Health, more than ever before, is being looked to as the best way to elicit broad-scale support for climate solutions – solutions that can sustain a world where children can still grow up to be thriving, productive, healthy adults. Indeed, if we and our fellow species are to persist in our amazing diversity, the quest for generating and sharing knowledge cannot be shut down at such a critical juncture.

At meeting’s close, there was a collective sense of gratitude for the many leaders who rolled up their sleeves, be it sweaters or suit jackets, to insist that a climate and health meeting would take place. I have little doubt that were we to roll some of those sleeves up just a bit more, we should not be surprised to find a message or two inked across the arms of those who organized, who participated, and who, nevertheless, persisted. 

Climate for Health & Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments to Collaborate on Climate Solutions

For 15 consecutive years, an annual Gallup poll has found that nursing is the most trusted profession in America. Some 84 percent of the public rates nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as "high" or "very high” – above even doctors and police officers. It is thus no surprise that the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) believes that nurses’ trusted role, and their place on the front lines of health care and disaster response in every community, places them in a unique position to inform and mobilize society to act on climate change.

 

A New Partnership

ecoAmerica and the Climate for Health leadership community concur with that assessment— and have finalized a new collaboration with ANHE that allows the groups to combine forces for greater effectiveness. Outlined in a memorandum of understanding signed January 31, the organizations’ joint plan will help build support for climate solutions in the United States over the coming year.

The Climate for Health-ANHE partnership has four goals:

  1. Building visible national leadership on climate solutions within the nursing sector
  2. Creating climate-literate nursing professionals who can lead on climate
  3. Engaging all national nursing associations and their members in climate action
  4. Building collective action for climate solutions within nursing and across the health sector

Among other things, the collaboration will recruit nursing associations to join climate initiatives and develop resolutions and action plans; create educational materials in a variety of media including videos, webinars, and reports; train nurse leaders as trainers and communicators to engage the public, peers, and other associations in climate solutions; and develop metrics to measure awareness, attitudes, and behaviors around climate and health. The partnership will also develop several events for nurse leaders, culminating in the first national Conference on Climate, Health, and Nursing. Throughout, Climate for Health and ANHE will cross- promote each other’s and joint activities around climate and collaborate as needed on fundraising to support this work.

One of the highlights of the agreement is that ANHE has pledged to recruit a consortium of up to 12 diverse national nursing organizations to participate in and support Climate for Health-ANHE climate initiatives. The hope is to involve nurses from across specialties, such as associations of school nurses, neonatal, obstetrical, and pediatric nurses, public health nurses and more, along with ethnicity-identified nursing organizations. The groups’ leaders will be encouraged to join the Climate for Health Leadership Circle, and a cadre of “Champions” will be developed from among nursing association members to engage fellow professionals and the public on nursing, health, and climate change.

A History of Leadership

"ANHE is excited to partner with Climate for Health to elevate the issue of climate change and bring notice to how changes are impacting the health of our patients, families, and communities, " said ANHE Climate Change Program Coordinator Cara Cook, MS, RN, AHN-BC. "We hope to bring the nursing perspective in addressing this priority issue by advocating on behalf on the public and our communities to ensure that health is placed at the forefront of policy and decision making."

With its history of leadership on climate and health, ANHE is well positioned to be a dynamic partner. Founded in 2008, ANHE has been fulfilling a mission of promoting healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice, and influencing policy.  In 2013, two ANHE member nurses, Laura Anderko PhD, RN (a professor at Georgetown University and member of Climate for Health’s Leadership Circle) and Therese Smith, RN, BSN, MPA, received the White House Champion of Change award for Climate Change and Public Health. Last spring, ANHE held a summit with the Obama White House on the importance of fighting climate change to protect the public’s health. The organization has also produced numerous educational materials, including a Climate Change, Health, and Nursing report to introduce nurses to climate science and disaster response, and an e-textbook, Environmental Health in Nursing.

To learn more about ANHE, visit their website. To learn more about Climate for Health and opportunities for partnership, please contact Senior Program Director Jennifer Tabola at [email protected]

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of February 12-18, 2017

Last week's Climate Change and Health Meeting dominated headlines.  Hosted by former Vice President Al Gore, the event was held on February 16 at the Carter Center in Atlanta.  In the course of the day, attendees (including ecoAmerica president Bob Perkowitz and Climate for Health Senior Program Director Jennifer Tabola) were enriched by four in-depth panel discussions, four special keynote speeches — and a surprise visit from former President Jimmy Carter. 

Though the facts on climate and health were sobering, the solutions were encouraging. As V.P. Gore concluded, "We have to take stock of what is going on in D.C. and dig deep, double down, and decide we are going to WIN."

The conference was simulcast. For highlights, check our Twitter feed @climate4health. You can also view the entire proceedings here.

 

Speaking of events on February 16, ecoAmerica's Path to Positive Communities also held its "Let's Talk Communities and Climate" webinar that day. Download the new report here and view the one-hour webinar here.

 

Also this week, scientific research confirmed humanity's role in changing the climate:

Study: Humans causing climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces by Melissa L. Davey, The Guardian

 

Fortunately, we're heading toward a clean-energy economy: 

U.S. solar surged 95% to become largest source of new energy by Chris Martin, Bloomberg

 

Will our government help or hinder efforts to protect climate and health? That depends in part on what becomes of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and international climate agreements.

GOP bill would gut EPA by Timothy Cama, The Hill

Good luck killing the EPA by Eric Roston, Bloomberg

Trump would face legal battle for dumping UN climate change treaty by Hannah Hess, E&E News 

 

Meanwhile, state and local governments, and their residents, are on the case:

L.A.’s mayor wants to lower the city’s temperature. These scientists are figuring out how to do it by Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times

How cities can stand up to climate change by Alissa Walker, Curbed

Looking ahead, the American Public Health Association will be holding a webinar, "Climate Justice Changes Health: Local, Tribal, Global, and Generational." It's on February 27; register now! 

And if you wonder what else is happening during APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health, just check the monthly calendar here.

See you Thursday with a blog on Climate for Health's exciting new partnership with Alliances of Nurses for Healthy Environments!

How Are Professional Societies Engaging Their Members on Climate Change?

From architecture to medicine to water management, many professional organizations are already educating their members on issues related to climate change. But given its impacts on the communities they serve—and even their own jobs—how well are these groups integrating climate change prevention, preparedness, and social equity into their work? And what might help them to do it better? 

The Michigan-based Kresge Foundation commissioned independent researchers Missy Stults, Ph.D. and consultant Sara Meerow to find out. They analyzed 41 societies that reflect the diversity of professions that operate at the local level and play crucial roles in building resilience to climate change: construction, local government, engineering, planning, transportation, public health, and more. Their findings are published in a new report, Professional Societies and Climate Change.

In a nutshell, while almost all groups studied are concerned and active around sustainability in general, when it comes to addressing climate change and climate equity, there’s a range. A few are not involved at all. Some have begun dipping their toes in—say, holding a presentation, staring a working group, or producing fact sheets— while others are mobilizing comprehensive climate-education strategies across their organization.  Wherever they fall on this spectrum, though, professional societies say they are hungry for ways “to better share experiences, resources and lessons learned” with their peers and constituencies, “particularly short, digestible stories … and tools for translating scientific information into actionable practices,” as Meerow put it.

 Professionals increasingly recognize that the decisions they make can accelerate or slow greenhouse gas emissions, and also affect how well society prepares for climate impacts. Membership organizations are well positioned to speed the mainstreaming of climate considerations into decision making at the local level.

— Lois DeBacker, managing director of Kresge’s Environment Program

A Closer Look

By examining materials on the societies’ websites, the researchers determined how extensive their resources and activities on climate change were in three key areas: adaptation, or planning for the effects of climate change that are underway or anticipated; mitigation, or reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change; and social justice, or fostering social cohesion and inclusion in the context of climate change.

Within each of these three categories, they found that societies are engaged in nine types of activities: 

1) advocacy

2) education and information dissemination

3) external partnership building

4) funding

5) networking

6) recognition

7) research

8) standard setting

9) training

 

 

Based on this information, the researchers split the 41 organizations into three “tiers” of involvement, with Tier 1 being the most involved. They found that while many professional societies fell into Tier 2 or 3, taking a more piecemeal approach to engaging their professions on climate, nine of the groups met the criteria for Tier 1. These organizations take a holistic approach, making climate change a “core component of their culture, educational curriculum, and standards of practice.”

Among the exemplary organizations were two health care societies: the National Medical Association and the American Public Health Association, both of which are Climate for Health partners. The NMA is the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States.  Among other things, the NMA has made the effects of climate change on patient health a centerpiece of its Environmental Health Commission’s work.  Readers of this blog are no doubt familiar with the 140-year-old APHA, which aims to champion the health of all people and all communities.  APHA recently launched its Year of Climate Change and Health to raise awareness of the health impacts of climate change and mobilize partners to take action.  

Insights from the Field

In the second phase of the study, Stults and Meerow conducted interviews with a subgroup of 15 organizations (mostly Tier 1, but some from tiers 2 and 3). They explored how the societies think about and engage their membership on climate issues, which practices they find most promising, and the challenges they face in scaling them up. The themes that emerged from these talks align with many of the insights from ecoAmerica’s communication guides and can provide practical entry points for health care groups to engage their members and communities on climate change. Here a just a few:

Peers Matter: Professional societies’ members listen to their peers, according to the report. So it’s important to find “champions,” provide them with a platform, and then help them to disseminate their case studies, examples, and practices widely. Creating peer-networking opportunities is also vital.

Share Stories: There is a felt need to collect and share concise stories about climate-change preparation and prevention in action. To that end, many organizations are creating “digestible” educational materials, such as memos and webinar series, to replace longer reports. Brief videos or podcasts and social media blitzes are also ideal vehicles. (Check out APHA’s YouTube video, Climate Changes Health, for a good example.)

Frame Communications Around Disaster Preparedness and Resilience: Many organizations told researchers they use these topics as an entry point to discuss climate change with their membership, focusing on how to transform the way we think about, build, and operate our urban areas.

Educate the Public as Well as Membership: Professional groups believe the wider public must understand and demand climate action before these professions are able to act to their full potential.

Collaboration Is Essential: All of the organizations interviewed collaborate extensively and are always looking for new partners to round out their expertise, bring new insights, and speak with one voice around climate-change action.

As one might expect, the organizations say lacks of time and resources limit their ability to deepen and expand the ways they engage members on climate. But the possibilities for partnering to teach and learn from one another are limitless.


The Kresge Foundation is a $3.6 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services and Detroit-based community development. To read the complete report, go here.

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of February 5-11, 2017

In climate politics, there's much speculation about what Congress and the President may or may not do. Government veterans have been weighing in on what they should do.

A conservative case for climate action by  Martin S. Feldstein, Ted Halstead and N. Gregory Mankiw, The New York Times

Hundreds of current, former EPA employees urge Senate to reject Trump’s nominee for the agency by Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

 

Meanwhile, academics are developing standards and curricula around climate change education.

Global consortium formed to educate leaders on climate change and health by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

 

Scientists are turning up new data on how climate changes health.

Air pollution linked to heightened risk of Type 2 diabetes in obese Latino children by Zen Vuong, USC News

Drought dramatically worsens deadly West Nile virus epidemics in U.S. by Alex Whiting, Reuters

 

Renewable energy — and its fans — continued to grow.

Wind tops nation in renewable energy capacity for first time by Devin Henry, The Hill

Even climate change deniers want to pursue renewable energy by Sidney Fussell, Gizmodo

 

This week's blog looked at Dr. Richard Jackson's take on "Science, Society, and Our Children's Future."

You can read it right here. Not yet subscribed?  It's easy to sign up.

 

Coming soon!

Path to Positive Communities’ Let’s Talk Communities and Climate webinar is this Thursday, February 16, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST. There is still time to register.

Also on February 16, beginning at 9 a.m. EST, you can watch the livestream of the Climate and Health Meeting in Atlanta. Spearheaded by former Vice President Al Gore's Climate Reality Project and cosponsored by the American Public Health Association and others, the conference is designed to fill the gap left by the canceled CDC meeting on the topic.

Science, Society, and Our Children’s Future

Richard Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., is a pediatrician and a professor of environmental health sciences and urban planning at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, as well as the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health. A member of Climate for Health’s Leadership Circle, he has frequently written and spoken about our professional responsibility to see the big picture – both underlying causes and forward-looking solutions, especially as it pertains to our children's future under climate change.

Previous blog posts have featured his insights on these matters. In Healthy Community Design and Transportation (July 14, 2016), he answered questions following ecoAmerica’s four-part webinar Making the Connection: Climate Changes Health. In How Extreme Weather, Health, and Communities Connect (October 28, 2016), he talked about the importance of foresight in community planning; the value of social connections in recovery; and the importance of effective, two-way communication that includes people’s perspectives, addresses their needs, and allows them (where appropriate) to participate in solutions.

From Facts to Vision

Dr. Jackson’s most recent theme has been the responsibility of science and scientists to serve not just as purveyors but interpreters of facts, identifying and communicating the underlying causes of a problem – be it severe weather or human health conditions. In January, he spoke on this topic as part of a multidisciplinary panel at the American Meteorological Society’s 97th Annual Meeting in Seattle. He adapted his speech into an essay, “Meteorologists and the Sacred Position Between People and Science,” published in The Daily Climate recently.

In the essay, he describes an imaginary internist who sees an elderly, overweight patient with a sore on her foot that will not heal; the physician merely prescribes an ointment. However, this internist should have recognized and addressed the likelihood that the patient actually had a life-threatening systemic disorder such as vascular disease and/or diabetes. Dr. Jackson writes,

At the core of medical and public health training, we learn that you cannot just look narrowly at the problem in front of you…how did the patient get into this state and what are the challenges going forward? Failing to do so is malpractice….It is not enough for the doctor to know a lot of science. It is equally important that the person who is put between the scientific world and the human being must show true diligence.…

When it comes to the work of meteorologists, whom the public looks to for vital weather information, Dr. Jackson maintains,

The systemic disorder is climate heating as a result of climate-forcing gases….We need [meteorologists] to be technically proficient, but we also need big-picture thinkers who forecast, as the navy admirals do, way out beyond the bow.

To those who say it’s not weather experts’ job to report on longer-term and global threats such as climate, Dr. Jackson offers an analogy between the failure to notice and then communicate the connections between climate and public health to not noticing and reporting signs of child abuse or neglect in an injured patient:

When we fail to identify threats to our children and grandchildren, we are guilty of child neglect, and in some cases child abuse…When there is a grave threat, we need to speak with courage even when we don’t have absolute proof.

He concludes: “Will our grandchildren, and all grandchildren, berate us: 'You should have known we were in grave danger; why didn’t you act in time to protect us?'”

You can read the entire essay here.

A Voice for Children

Dr. Jackson’s reasoning is apparently shared by a leader in the legal field.  This past November, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aikin issued her opinion in Juliana v. U.S, a landmark 2015 federal climate lawsuit brought on behalf of America’s children. The 21 plaintiffs—aged 9 to 20, from all over the country and of many different backgrounds—allege that the U.S. government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by actively supporting actions that cause climate change and failing to meaningfully address the problem. The defendants, who include the President of the United States and the fossil fuel industry, had filed a motion to dismiss the case.

In allowing the case to proceed to trial, Judge Aiken stated:

Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.

 Juliana v. U.S. is expected to go to trial in mid- to late 2017. To learn more, visit the website of Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit, nonpartisan youth-advocacy group leading the suit. And check out the bios of the young group of plaintiffs, which include statements in their own words about why they decided to use the Constitution as a tool to lead on climate. 

What You Can Do

What does Dr. Jackson's charge to “act in time to protect us” mean when it comes to making and communicating climate and health connections?

If you work in public health, or even in private practice, it might mean tracking and reporting individual or community health problems that seem to have a climate or extreme weather connection to your managers, government authorities, and/or collaborating with academic researchers. It can even include talking to young people – in the office or your own kids – about recognizing the climate-health connections. (If Juliana v. U.S. is any sign, many youths care about climate change and want to know that adults are also aware and doing something about it.)

We’ll address this issue further in next week’s blog, which will feature the work of professional societies, including the National Medical Association and the American Public Health Association, in collectively and systematically addressing climate change.

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of January 29-February 4, 2017

With 22 executive actions taken in his first two week in office, President Trump has been pushing dramatic policy changes, even as Congress moved quickly on a new energy agenda. Several recent actions hold serious consequences for climate and health.

 

One thing that will breach Trump's wall: climate change by Erika Bolstad, E&E News

GOP lines up resolutions to undo coal, methane pollution rules by Devin Henry, The Hill

 

However, medical professionals are taking a stand against policies that affect health care delivery.

Hundreds of doctors and nurses urge the Cleveland Clinic to resist immigration ban by Lindsey Bever and Lenny Bernstein, The Washington Post

 

And there's some good news on the coal front as well:

The West’s largest coal plant may close by Bobby Magill, Climate Central

 

Stories taught us about rising sea levels' state-level challenges and solutions:

A vulnerable Delaware community braces for the impacts of sea level rise by Bruce Stutz, Yale Environment 360

Think states alone can’t handle sea level rise? Watch California by Chelsea Leu, Wired

 

…and we learned new ways to talk about climate change and get the facts out there:

In America’s heartland, discussing climate change without saying ‘climate change’ by Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times

Climate advocates study obscure U.S. law to fight Trump by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

 

On the research front, scientistists are better understanding the effects of burning fossil fuels on our brains.

Air pollution may cause 21 percent of dementias worldwide, study suggests by Bradley J. Fikes, San Diego Union Tribune

 

Finally, this week's blog summarized the official launch of the American Public Health Association's "Year of Climate and Health" and suggested the many ways health care professionals can get involved. 

 

Think we missed something? Please email [email protected] and we’ll check it out.

Climate for Health Partnering with American Public Health Association to Promote the “Year of Climate Change and Health”

On January 12, 2017, the American Public Health Association (APHA) launched its Year of Climate Change and Health (YOCCH) to raise awareness of the health impacts of climate change and mobilize partners to take action.

The launch meeting, held in Washington, D.C., sought to generate excitement about and engagement in the YOCCH; create a network for advancing knowledge and action; map out events for each month throughout the year; and describe and assign both APHA and partner roles in this effort. The event was attended by approximately 100 leaders and experts from the private, public, and academic sectors, including the Kresge Foundation, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and The George Washington University, among others.

APHA led us through the day, providing background and context for the YOCCH. We spent some time working in small groups to define the finer details regarding potential activities we might engage in, who our audiences and partners are, and what is our ideal timeframe. We also dedicated time to networking as a way to boost our ability to work as a community in the upcoming year.

What's Coming Next

APHA and their partners will be rolling out initiatives, events, and partnership opportunities throughout the year to raise awareness and mobilize action around positioning climate change as a major threat to public health, centered on 11 climate-and-health related themes identified as top priorities to address.

Here’s a rundown on the campaign, how Climate for Health will be participating, and how you can, too.

Themes

The priority issues were decided by consensus of members and partners at brainstorming sessions held at APHA’s strategic planning workshop, at the 2016 APHA Annual Meeting, and via email and social media. These themes will change each month and include:

  1. January: Introduction to the Year of Climate Change and Health
  2. February: Climate Justice & Health
  3. March: Clean Energy
  4. April: Transportation and Healthy Community Design
  5. May: Air Quality, Respiratory & Cardiovascular Health
  6. June: Vector-Borne Diseases
  7. July: Agriculture and Food Safety & Security
  8. August: Water Quality
  9. September: Extreme Weather
  10. October: Vulnerable Populations, Focus on Children
  11. November: Tribal and Indigenous Health
  12. December: Co-Benefits

Each topic presents an opportunity to learn about these issues as they pertain to your practice, share information, and take positive climate action.

For its part, Climate for Health will be incorporating the monthly themes in all of its communications, including social media. Monthly beginning in March, one of the APHA Climate Change Learning Institute scholarship recipients will write a guest blog on a priority theme from his or her perspective.  The participants, who hail from across the country and include students, educators, and professionals, have interests and expertise in fields ranging from environmental, community, and international health to nursing and environmental education.

How to Get Involved

APHA is seeking additional partners for the YOCCH. There are three levels of progressively more active involvement: Bronze (Change Agent); silver (Change Maker); and gold (Change Champion); visit the APHA site and click "become a partner" to learn more.

Participation can be as simple as sponsoring or attending a climate-and-health related event during the year. The first of these events is the Climate and Health Meeting, spearheaded by former Vice President Al Gore and cosponsored by APHA and others, to be held February 16 in Atlanta. Later in the year, APHA’s annual conference November 4-8 will focus on “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Climate Changes Health."

You can also plug into APHA’s pre-existing campaigns:

* Get Ready, its climate-related emergency preparedness campaign

* National Public Heath Week, which will include student sessions on climate change and health that are also open to the public

* Generation Public Health, which aims to equalize access and quality of healthcare across all U.S. demographics to make the U.S.A. the healthiest nation in one generation.

Right away, you can download the YOCCH Social Media Toolkit, which offers one-click, readymade social media tools for communicating on Twitter and other platforms; tips; downloadable graphics; links to short videos; and fact sheets. Each month there will be a new toolkit tailored to a different climate-and-health theme. Get it here.

To learn more about the Year of Climate Change and Health, visit the APHA website. You can keep the conversation going on your regular social media by using the hashtag #ClimateChangesHealth, and follow APHA on Twitter: @PublicHealth and @EH_4_All.

 

Jane Chang is Program Manager, Health at ecoAmerica.

 

 

 

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of January 22-28, 2017

Few missed the drama of President Trump’s first week in office, which included a temporary freeze on science communications from federal agencies and the pre-emptive cancellation of a climate and health summit by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Fortunately, health care professionals and other climate advocates have been pushing the #ClimateFacts out there.

Medical journal the Lancet to launch Planetary Health title by Megan Darby, Climate Home

Al Gore revives climate summit the CDC abruptly canceled by Lydia O'Connor, The Huffington Post

Cities and states plan a robust defense of climate science by Ben Adler, Newsweek

 

The news media are still trying to anticipate how this administration will deal with environmental protection.

What Trump can and can’t do to dismantle Obama’s climate rules by Coral Davenport, The New York Times

Making sense of President Trump’s contradictory energy plan by Elizabeth Shogren, High Country News

 

Meanwhile, the renewable energy sector is making strides:

SunShot $1 per watt solar cost goal reached years ahead of schedule by Eric Wesoff, Greentech Media

Nation's largest offshore wind farm to be built off Long Island by Diane Cardwell, The New York Times

 

This past week's blog explained how regional carbon-cutting efforts have improved public health, according to an independent study. (If you subscribe to the blog, you’ll receive it in your inbox automatically.)

Finally, registration opened for Path to Positive Communities’ "Let's Talk Communities and Climate" webinar, coming February 16. You can sign up here.

 

Think we missed something? Please email [email protected] and we’ll check it out.

 

How Regional Carbon-Cutting Efforts Improve Public Health

Residents of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are healthier these days, thanks to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  According to a new, independent analysis of this nine-state cooperative effort, established in 2009 to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector, RGGI has benefited the climate and public health over the entire region, while also boosting states’ economies. 

RGGI, the first mandatory, market-based “cap and trade” program in the United States, represents a regional CO2 budget for Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. (Gov. Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out in 2011.)

The report, released last week by Abt Associates, determined that residents in this region are now suffering significantly fewer premature deaths, heart attacks, and respiratory illnesses due to improvements in air quality attributable to RGGI. These improvements including an estimated 300 to 830 lives saved; more than 8,200 asthma attacks avoided; 39,000 lost work days averted; and an average of $5.7 billion in health care savings. Neighboring Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., which are downwind of the RGGI states—and even New Jersey–shared in these benefits.  

Key Findings

Details of the key findings are summarized in the chart at right.

As the report explains, one of the reasons RGGI has helped to improve health as well as the environment is that fewer carbon emissions in the atmosphere has also meant fewer emissions of other air pollutants that cause respiratory and other illnesses. (These pollutants include carbon monoxide, lead, ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter.)  Most of the benefits came from reducing smokestack emissions from older, coal-fired plants in just a few states.

Abt Associates notes, “While RGGI-driven health benefits are likely to level off in the future… the increasingly cleaner, more efficient electricity grid in the RGGI region will provide new opportunities for additional, substantial health benefits [a]s energy demand from other sectors – such as transportation and heating – shifts onto the cleaner grid .…”

Background

Abt is a research firm focused on health, social, and environmental policy whose mission is “improving the quality of life and economic well-being of people worldwide.” To perform their assessment, they relied on peer-reviewed models and historical data from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency on electricity production, air-pollutant emissions, and public health indicators. They also looked at independent research reports on economics.

RGGI’s cap-and-trade scheme is similar to the federal Acid Rain Program established in 1990, credited with significantly reducing acid-rain-causing atmospheric sulfur dioxide from power plants. Each state is allotted a certain number of, basically, pollution permits. Each permit is equal to one short ton of C02. Regular auctions are held so that states that are able to make reductions beyond their allowances can sell their permits and those unable to meet their “caps” can buy more. In this way, the states collectively meet both their own caps and the regional cap on carbon, and emissions overall are reduced. The caps become progressively stricter: While the 2014 limit was 91 million tons, that figure will drop 2.5 percent each year until 2020, with a goal to reduce CO2 emissions to 45 percent below 2005 levels.

In addition, the auctions serve as a funding mechanism. The report calculates that since inception, RGGI raised almost $3 billion from the auction of carbon credits.  These proceeds are invested in clean energy and energy-efficiency programs, with a goal of building lower-carbon economies and creating more green jobs.

Implications

The recent RGGI study adds weight to the results of earlier ones, such as a 2015 study from Duke University that found the program was responsible for about half the region’s emissions reductions (the remainder were due to the 2009 recession, lower natural gas prices, and other environmental initiatives). It also found that CO2 emissions would have been almost 25 percent higher without RGGI. And according to a poll last summer by the Sierra Club, RGGI has strong public support in the states where it is in force—and respondents said they wanted emissions caps to drop even lower.

Some argue that greenhouse-gas trading serves to maintain our dependence on fossil-fuel energy and that that emissions reductions aren’t happening quickly enough to meet the goals set by international agreements. Others, such as businesses required to participate in California’s comprehensive carbon-trading market, view it as over-regulation.

 But one clear take-away of this report is that collaborative, regional efforts can be part of an effective strategy for protecting the climate and public health—with or without the imprimatur of the federal government. And it provides more evidence to share that action on climate is action on health.

ecoAmerica offers many tools for talking about the links between climate and health. Check out the Let’s Talk Health and Climate and 15 Steps to Create Effective Climate Communications guides on the Research page. And be sure to sign up for the upcoming Let’s Talk Communities and Climate webinar, scheduled for February 16.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of January 15-21, 2017

The news was sobering during a week that began with Congress' moves to repeal Obamacare and culminated in the inauguration of a President who denies climate change.

References to climate change scrubbed from the White House website by Jason Koebler, Motherboard

How pulling out of the Paris climate pact would hinder the fight against HIV/AIDS by Brian King, The Conversation

 

 

Yet voters say they want government to protect the environment:

Poll: 60% of Americans, unlike Trump, want strong EPA by Chris Kahn, Reuters

 

New science showed us the climate-and-health challenges ahead:

Northeast U.S. warming is off the charts, study finds by Ari Phillips, Fusion

Climate change threatens American agriculture by Kendra Pierre-Louis, Popular Science

 

Through it all, the healthcare sector continued to lead with new partnerships, insights, and tools.

Nurses and EPA launch partnership to fight the health impacts of climate change by Josh Alexander, Lake Powell Life

Solving the climate crisis, one hospital at a time by Renzo R. Guinto, Los Angeles Times

New online data tool lets city leaders examine and take action on the health of their urban populations by NYU Langone Medical Center

 

Think we missed something? Please email [email protected] and we’ll check it out.

 

Taking Action On Climate Change: Huge Opportunities for Global Health Improvements

This week's guest authors are Phil Polakoff M.D., a consulting professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and executive producer/host of A HEALTHIER ME,™ a digital show designed to educate the public on a wide variety of topics in health and healthcare, and  Bob Perkowitz, president and founder of ecoAmerica. This essay originally appeared at Thrive Global.

 

Good health depends on several factors. Sufficient sleep, healthy eating, and active living are no longer the only necessities for ensuring wellness. There’s something more — according to the American Public Health Association, “Social, environmental, and individual factors influence our health and our ability to make healthy choices. Health care is only a small contributor to our health and wellness.”

The climate and health assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program released earlier this month makes it clear that climate change poses a risk to human health and welfare. In fact, climate change stands right alongside tobacco, cancer, and obesity as one of the major public health issue of our time. Established medical groups such as the American Lung Association urge physicians to remind policymakers that clean air saves lives and money.

The tangible realities of climate change pollution are widespread. Millions of Americans suffer from allergies. Poor air quality increases rates of childhood asthma and respiratory illnesses, and rises in temperatures fuel cases of Lyme disease and West Nile Virus. The upsurge in mosquito-borne diseases from climate change is also noteworthy — the Zika epidemic is a recent example of this.

In addition to their physical trauma, climate effects [impact] mental health. Beyond Storms & Droughts, a joint report by the American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica, overviews the host of psychological impacts. Climate risks and weather disasters put people at high risk of pre-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. The report discusses why some communities will be hit harder than others, and how psychological tolls interact with physical health.

Collectively, climate change could be the most expensive challenge facing America’s heath care system. According to 2015 research from Citigroup, the all-inclusive cost of not acting on climate change adds up to $44 trillion. Air pollution caused by energy production in the U.S. caused at least $131 billion in damages in 2011 alone, a new analysis concludes.

A 2015 report by the World Bank, “Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty,” reveals that climate change could place more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. Since being poor increases a person’s chance of being malnourished, getting sick from exposure to harmful conditions, and having inadequate access to health care, efforts to address climate change reduce poverty and advance public health simultaneously.

Here’s the good news. Given the broad swath of its impacts, addressing climate change presents us with one of the greatest opportunities of our time to improve public health. Limiting carbon dioxide emissions is an honest and achievable goal that will save millions of lives. A new study by the World Health Organization indicates that 23 percent of deaths that occur globally each year, affecting nearly 12.6 million people, are caused by environmental contributions from pollution and are preventable. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Now is our chance. The success of last year’s Paris climate summit offered evidence that a large majority of the world’s countries are on board with climate solutions. When given a choice, doctors and nurses advocate for preventing disease before it begins. Mental health professionals say that people feel their anxiety diminish once they start taking real steps to respond to the crisis. If the climate continues to change, existing health threats will be exacerbated and new public health challenges will develop. We know better than to let this happen.

Here’s what you can do. Read the recent White House assessment, “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States.” Support the American Public Health Association and state and local public health agencies working to address climate change. And, if your health is truly a priority, take personal action to reduce air pollution while engaging your families and friends. There’s no doubt about it: When we work toward stemming climate change, we protect the wellbeing and lives of people everywhere.

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of January 8-14, 2017

This week, one of President Obama’s last, was heavy on politics. The Commander in Chief took final acts on behalf of the environment, and Congress held hearings on Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of State, former Exxon Mobil head Rex Tillerson.

In Final Address, Obama Urges U.S. to Deal with Climate Change by Emily Olden (Climate Wire via Scientific American)

Policy Forum: The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy by Barack Obama (Science magazine)

Tillerson’s Hearing Fails to Assure the American Public on Climate Change by Andrew Light et al. (World Resources Institute blog)

 

On the state level, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came out with State Climate Summaries, which allow anyone to view observed and projected climate-change information about each of the 50 states.

State Climate Summaries (NOAA)

New York and California in particular showed climate leadership in several ways. Governor Andrew Cuomo called for more electric-vehicle charging stations around the Empire State, and State Senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill requiring solar panels on all new buildings in the Golden State. And then there were these ambitious moves on behalf of clean skies:

New York Seeks to Develop U.S.'s Biggest Offshore Wind Projects by Scott Disavino, Reuters

California Lawmakers Offer a Plan to Extend the State's Cap-and-Trade Program by Chris Megerian, The Los Angeles Times

 

Finally, on January 12, the American Public Health Association (APHA) launched its Year of Climate Change and Health with a kickoff event in Washington, D.C. Monthly themes, events, and initiatives are planned throughout 2017. Climate for Health will be collaborating with APHA to publish blogs on topics related to the Year of Climate Change and Health, so watch this space!

Find out how to get involved here. Meanwhile, you can follow or join the conversation online using the hashtag #ClimateChangesHealth. 

Year of Climate Change and Health  (APHA)

 

Think we missed something? Please email [email protected] and we’ll check it out.

 

Walking: A Simple “Step” for Human and Climate Health

Sun, rain, or snow, walking is an eco-friendly form of exercise most people can do throughout their lifetime. According to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, walking has numerous preventative and therapeutic health benefits. It’s also easy: It comes naturally, requires little to no equipment, and can be adapted to one’s schedule and lifestyle. And needless to say, it’s greenhouse-gas free. Those are some reasons why, in 2015, the Surgeon General’s office launched Step It Up!, a national health initiative that “calls on Americans to make walking a part of their daily activity and to take steps to make every community in [the nation] a great place to walk.”

Inspired by that effort, America Walks, a national nonprofit working to increase walking and make America a better place to be physically active, established its Every Body Walk! micro-grants program. This program is designed to help grassroots efforts in municipalities across the country to create safer, more accessible and enjoyable ways to facilitate walking. America Walks recently announced the 22 winners of its second round of funding, which was supported by WalkBoston, a Massachusetts nonprofit pedestrian advocacy group; TransitCenter, a national foundation dedicated to improving urban public transit; and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Micro Grants, Macro Impacts

The winning projects use art, signage, social support, environmental design, and other innovations to facilitate and promote walking; about a quarter of them focus on increasing pedestrian access to and expanding public transit networks. The locations involved range from cities as large as Baltimore, MD  (pop. 600,000+) to towns as small as Burke, SD (pop 604). Targeted communities include youth, seniors (or both); the visually or ambulatory impaired; LGBT people; Native Americans; homeless families; and people with HIV, among others. All of the initiatives provide models the health care field can use to enhance walkability where they live and work.

Several winning projects were created by health-centric organizations. Here are just two of them:

Healthy By Design Coalition of Yellowstone County of Billings, MT. The coalition will work with community partners to promote physical activity and placemaking at its annual summer Gardeners’ Market at a neighborhood park, located in a USDA-designated food desert. The efforts will include a walking campaign including various incentives along with marketing materials, signs, and bike parking.

The Central Valley Health District of Jamestown, ND. The district strives to improve the city’s walkability and to create a culture of walking. They intend to purchase signs to be placed at existing walking trails, which will match signage for their pre-existing Get Fit & Explore trail. They also plan to place signs at indoor walking spaces including the Civic Center and a new Activity Center, to encourage people to walk even during bitter North Dakota winters.

Walking: The Climate and Health Connection

It’s particularly important for health care professionals to promote walking. In terms of climate, anything we can do to get out of our personal cars – walking, biking, or taking public transit (which usually involves some walking to and from a stop or station) – means reduced emissions of C02 and other airborne pollutants. It also promotes socializing outdoors – where better to spontaneously “talk climate” with others?

In terms of health, the official Step It Up! Call to Action report notes that one out of every two U.S. adults is living with a chronic disease (including heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, the leading causes of death and disability). Increasing one’s physical activity levels significantly reduces incidence and severity of these health risks, yet only 50 percent of U.S. adults get the recommended amount of aerobic exercise. To remedy that situation, Surgeon General Murthy considers walking (or rolling, for wheelchair users) a bona-fide public health strategy because it’s a low-hanging fruit for both providers and most of the populations they serve.

 

To that end, his Call to Action asks all sectors to encourage walking and walk-friendly community design as part of their missions. The Call points to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendation that medical staff counsel their at-risk patients about the need for physical activity, and then help them to create a custom walking routine – or even write a prescription for walking! Public health professionals can then conduct research on what works to promote and sustain walking and walkable communities, and then share their findings with other sectors that can implement them.

Getting More Involved

The application process for the 2018 round of America Walks micro grants will begin this fall, according to Heidi Simon, the group’s communications and public affairs manager. For more information, visit the America Walks website or contact Heidi at [email protected]

America Walks also has many “anytime” resources for health professionals, including case studies, tips, discussion forums, and webinars.

Meanwhile, the American Public Health Association has launched its One Billion Steps Challenge as part of its annual National Public Health Week. The goal: get participants to walk a collective total of one billion steps between Jan 9 and April 9 (the end of NPHW). Your practice or organization can become a Billion Steps Challenge partner, create a team to join a walking event, or even create your own event. If you do, it’s a great opportunity to apply the communications strategies found in ecoAmerica’s Let’s Talk Health and Climate guide.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of December 31-January 7

We don't want you to miss a thing when it comes to climate and health news. And now we're including the reporters' names so you can follow them on social media, if you wish.

 

 

 

 

 

During the first week of January 2017, we saw more roundups of great new ideas for protecting health and planet:

Climate Change New Year resolutions by13 scientists and other respected individuals (Yale Climate Connections)

Where to follow the climate action in 2017 by John Upton (Climate Central)

The next frontier in recycling: Food by Lonnie Shekhtman (The Christian Science Monitor)

 

Political and legal moves by grassroots climate advocates were in the news:

Tillerson climate-change testimony sought before Trump sworn in (The Dallas Morning News)

Thinking globally, suing locally: Chelsea [MA] activists join fight against Exxon Mobil (The Boston Globe)

 

And green-o-vations to meet climate and health challenges are ongoing in states and cities all over the country:

Storm surge damage falls $8.3 billion a year in Louisiana's new coastal plan by Mark Schleifstein (The New Orleans Times-Picayune)

[DC suburbs] increasingly view their auto-centric sprawl as a health hazard by Katherine Shaver (The Washington Post)

[Chicago] hospitals share successes, challenges from Pilot Healthcare plastics recycling program by Talia Rudee (Sustainable Brands)

 

Climate for Health has debuted on the Medium platform!

You’ll find our weekly blog there, about a week after it’s first published on our website. But Medium also lets you “like,” comment, and even highlight your favorite passages on each blog.

(Did you know you can comment here on the blog? Simply sign in to the Climate for Health site and then proceed to the blog. If you’re not a member yet, we encourage you to register.)

 

Think we missed something? Please email [email protected] and we’ll check it out.

 

Speaking Through Your Spending: Fossil Fuel Divestment & the Health Care Field

Donald Trump is under pressure to divest himself of his business holdings, which may create a conflict of interest once he is President. As the new year begins, climate and health advocates seeking new and effective ways to make an impact may wish to follow suit – by joining the international movement of public and private organizations that are aligning mission and investments by divesting– i.e., eliminating fossil fuels from their financial holdings.

First associated with South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement and more recently with campus activism, divestment means withdrawing one’s money from companies, stocks, funds, and related industries that contravene one’s values. According to Healthcare Without Harm (HCWH), it can also be an important strategy for addressing climate change. “The continued burning of fossil fuels will dramatically affect food production, water availability, air pollution, and the emergence and spread of human infection diseases. Divestment can help bring attention to these risks and the effect they will have on public health and the overall health of the planet.”

It’s not merely a symbolic gesture. (Although that’s important, as medical professionals and organizations hold authority as role models.)  Both withdrawing money and reinvesting it elsewhere leverage positive change by sending economic signals. As former New York Mayor and business titan Michael Bloomberg wrote in a recent op-ed on business transparency, “A properly functioning market will price in the risks associated with climate change and reward firms that mitigate them.”    

This blog will cover the basics of divestment for hospitals, medical centers, private practices, and individuals, to help you decide if this type of climate action is right for you.

A Growing Trend

Forbes magazine has predicted, “Climate change could be the most important long-term trend for investors.” And indeed, divesting seems to be going mainstream as a way to address the physical, social, legal, and financial risks of climate change—not to mention its risks to public health. The Global Fossil Fuel Divestment and Clean Energy Investment Movement, an annual report by Arabella Advisors released in mid-December, noted that in the past year, the value of investment funds committed to some form of divestment from fossil fuel companies has doubled, to $5 trillion.

Nonprofits such as faith-based institutions and philanthropies continue to lead the way in this arena, the report found. But divestment is also spreading to new sectors, including large pension funds and even Fortune 500 companies. State and local governments and tens of thousands of individual investors have pledged to or begun the process. So far, though, the health care field represents the smallest proportion of divesting sectors, at only 2 percent.

Why Health Care Should Consider Divestment

Hospitals and health care organizations have a history of leading with their dollars, having committed to educating the public about the risks of tobacco in the 1990s. Some – the American Medical Association and Kaiser Permanente, among others – divested their tobacco holdings as well.

Health care’s environmental footprint is another major reason to consider divesting. HCWH has pointed out that the sector, with its advanced medical technology and 24/7 hospitals, is the U.S. economy’s second-most intensive consumer of energy.  Most of all, health care’s social mission to protect health compels it to act. The World Health Organization considers climate change the greatest public health threat of the 21st century. So, says HCWH, “it is particularly important to align investments to promote improved health outcomes.”

The World Medical Association agrees: This past fall, it officially called on its member associations to divest from fossil fuels and to invest in companies “that uphold principles consistent with U.N. [climate] policy.” 

Types of Divestment

Strictly speaking, full divestment would mean purging all coal, oil, and gas holdings from institutional or personal investments. That may sound dramatic, but, according to HCWH, “As part of a diversified portfolio, renewables and alternative energy may prove to be stronger long-term investment than coal and other fossil fuels.”

In part, that’s because fossil fuel companies are starting to look risky, according to Forbes, as carbon regulations, taxes, and the plummeting costs of renewables bring uncertainties. And if nations hew to the Paris Agreements to keep global warming below 2 degrees C (as advocated by the “Keep It in the Ground” movement, which is pushing to stop mining of the world's remaining fossil fuels), most existing oil and gas reserves may become “stranded assets.” In fact, organizations may soon consider it their fiduciary duty to carefully weigh any new investments in fossil fuels, Arabella Advisors reports.

Another divestment option is to remove the biggest carbon emitters from your portfolio. The Carbon Underground 200, which tracks the top 200 publicly traded companies with the largest reserves of coal, oil, and gas, can help with that.

You can also pull out of investments in a specific fossil fuel, such as coal, as SSM Health, a large Catholic hospital system in St. Louis, MO, did. (This is significant: As HCWH climate and health program director Eric Lerner put it, “Coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.”)

This step can be combined with redirecting investments into greener ones. San Francisco-based Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems, announced a year ago that it will both restrict investments in coal companies and expand investment opportunities that address climate change.

You can also simply “freeze” any further future fossil fuel investments, as Gundersen Health System of La Crosse, Wisconsin, did.

Of course, if you don’t have the authority, you can speak with your or your organization’s portfolio managers to ask them whether they are “climate proofing” investments and urge them to include environmental sustainability in their investment decisions.

Resources

  • The Carbon Disclosure Project offers assessments of different companies’ sustainability levels.
  • Fossil Free Funds can help you screen mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in your or your organization’s portfolio or retirement plan that include fossil fuel companies.
  • Fossil Free Indexes offers “carbon responsible” research and investing products and services geared to the transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • Fund Votes and CERES track how mutual funds and company shareholders vote on climate-related resolutions, respectively.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

 

Climate and Health News: Top Stories for the Week of December 23-30

New year, new feature! We know how busy health professionals are, so each Monday morning, the Climate for Health blog will catch you up by posting at least half a dozen of the previous week’s top stories, plus reminders of upcoming events. We will continue to publish original blog content by noon each Thursday.

 

 

This final week of 2016 was ripe with year-end wrap-ups, providing perspective that can help launch us into 2017.

Obama releases state-of-the-climate-science report ahead of new administration. (Inside Climate News)

2016 was an historic year for environmental justice. (Environmental Heath News)

The climate change news that stuck with us in 2016 (The New York Times)

Five U.S. cities at the forefront of the fight against climate change (Reuters news wire)

In the innovative solutions category, this story focused on talking about our food choices:

New project aims to lure people away from meat, to a climate-healthier diet  (Inside Climate News)

And research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides insight into climate denial-ism.

Climate change skepticism fueled by gut reaction to local weather (ClimateWire via Scientific American)

 

Think we missed something? Please email [email protected] and we’ll check it out.

 

How Transforming Public Spaces Can Improve Health & Tackle Climate Change

The effects (and causes) of climate change affect everyone the world over. But exactly how they will affect our health, and to what extent, depends on where we live. Geography is one factor – natural and human-made health risks, and the way climate amplifies them, are different in Tucson than they are in Toledo. Social inequality is another – it’s well known that class and race disproportionately influence which health issues people face, and their likely outcomes.

But according to the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces, “a person’s zip code can be a more reliable determinant of health than their genetic code.” Indeed, the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute recently found socioeconomic, behavioral, and environmental factors combined determine about 80 percent of person’s length and quality of life, and these tend to be rooted in our location. 

That’s one reason that in 2017, Climate for Health’s blog and social media content will focus increasingly on spotlighting leaders, issues, and solutions at the local level. Consider this blog the official kickoff!

Creating Tomorrow’s Cities

According to the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, by 2050, two-thirds of the global population will live in cities – and these cities will need to be economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. That was the idea driving the New Urban Agenda adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) this past October. 

Among many other important points, the Agenda notes urban residents’ vulnerability to climate change and mentions that:

“Given cities’ demographic trends and their central role in the global economy in the mitigation and adaptation efforts related to climate change and in the use of resources and ecosystems, the way they are planned, financed, developed, built, governed, and managed has a direct impact on sustainability and resilience well beyond the urban boundaries.”

Thus, the Agenda includes an international, voluntary commitment to “promote the creation and maintenance of…quality public spaces to improve the resilience of cities to disasters and climate change.” 

These trends suggest that collaborative community planning– what the Project for Public Spaces calls “placemaking” – has the potential to protect and improve the physical and mental safety and health of a city’s diverse residents. The health care field can play an important role here. But where to begin?

 

For too long we have had doctors talking only to doctors, and urban planners, architects, and builders talking only to themselves….Public health in particular must be interdisciplinary, for no professional category owns public health or is legitimately excused from it.

— Dr. Richard Jackson, pediatrician, former chair of UCLA’s Environmental Health Sciences Department, former Environmental Health Director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Climate for Health Leadership Circle member.

 

The Case for Healthy Places

The Project for Public Spaces’ The Case for Healthy Places offers a useful primer in creating and supporting healthy placemaking initiatives. Funded in part by Climate for Health partner Kaiser Permanente, it outlines the benefits of placemaking in five areas: Social Support & Interaction; Play & Active Recreation; Green & Natural Environments; Healthy Food; and Walking & Biking. Each section provides an overview of the topic and a review of research findings, then provides specific ways to take action, illustrated with a successful case study.

The longest chapter is devoted to how hospitals and other health care institutions can become “anchors” of a place – not just via the medical services and jobs they provide, but also through the ways they participate with other neighborhood institutions to improve their community’s streets, parks, squares, and buildings.

This section of the report covers eight ways to get involved both inside and outside the walls of one’s facilities to create health-promoting spaces – and even deliver health care directly:


1. Engage stakeholders to identify needs, assets, ideas and potential partners.

Case study: Stanford (CA) Heathy Neighborhood Discovery crowdsourcing tool—Stanford Health and one partner

2. Conduct or support research efforts to identify evidence-based approaches to plan, design and program public space.

Case Study: O.A.S.I.S. on Ballou redevelopment of a former vacant lot in a "forgotten" block, Boston, MA –Massachusetts Department of Health and four partners

3. Build capacity with local residents and community groups to help them shape public space.

Case study: Agents of Change Training in Our Neighborhoods (ACTION) community organizing project, Sonoma County, CA—St. Joseph Health

4. Dedicate funding to a public space or public space improvement.

Case study: Canalside waterfront recreational hub, Buffalo, NY—Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York and one partner

5. Sponsor programming and activities in a public space.

Case study: HealthParks neighborhood wellness hubs, Detroit, MI – Healthy Detroit and one partner

6. Reprogram health facility space for physical activity and healthy food choices.

Case study: Kaiser Permanente farmers markets, nationwide –Kaiser Permanente

7. Provide volunteers to help foster great public spaces.

Case study: Urban Gardens, Houston, TX—United Healthcare and two partners

8. Track results and impacts of placemaking projects.

Case study: Gardens for Growing Healthy Communities, Denver, CO –Colorado School of Public Health and four partners


The Climate Change Link

Beyond their value in promoting economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable cities, these efforts can contribute to addressing climate change in another way. The more closely embedded health care institutions and practices are in the communities they serve, the more new opportunities there are to “talk climate.” That includes more chances to listen so we can better respond to people’s needs, as Dr. Jackson wrote in his blog, “How Extreme Weather, Health, and Communities Connect.”

ecoAmerica’s Let’s Talk Climate communications guides and webinars are ideal tools to bring to the healthy placemaking process: Check out Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans; Let’s Talk Health and Climate: Communication Guide for Health Professionals, and Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate U.S. Latinos.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

 

 

Coming Together: A Vision for 2017

As 2016 draws to a close, the United States is being pulled in two directions. As signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement, we are committed to moving forward along with the international community to implement the carbon-reduction pledges agreed to at the COP22 climate talks this fall. But with an incoming president who denies the reality of climate change and has pledged to double down on older, dirtier forms of energy, such climate progress seems to be shifting into reverse. It can feel like we everyday citizens are stuck in the middle.

But while our new commander-in-chief holds one type of power, it’s helpful to remember his is a minority view. We climate advocates have the power of numbers and our voices to let him know that we want progress on climate and health, and that we intend to do our part to bring about positive change regardless. That is the idea behind the open letter to President-elect Trump ecoAmerica published in USA TODAY, America’s largest-circulation newspaper, on December 12. It now includes more than 200 signers and counting, including eight from Climate for Health’s Leadership Circle.

Beyond being an appeal to common values – public health, economic prosperity, and national well-being – and an official request for political leadership on climate, the letter makes explicit that leaders from all sectors of society, like large majorities of the American public, are united on this issue.

Wish Lists

So as we move into 2017, it’s important to take stock of this fact and to forge connections with other like-minded individuals and groups, whose own appeals to Mr. Trump provide scientific information and useful arguments we can share with patients, colleagues, and the public. In addition, these letters feature a veritable “holiday wish list” of positive changes American leaders would like to see in the year ahead – from substantial investments in clean energy to stronger standards for vehicle emissions. Obviously, these can be used as goalposts to track whether the new administration is moving forward or backward on climate and health policy. But they can also help us plan our own actions in the spheres over which we have most control, and offer benchmarks for success that help us lead by example.

Write On!

Environment America and LowCarbonUSA are just two of the other organizations amplifying the chorus of calls for climate action by publishing open letters with lists of actionable requests.

Environment America’s petition to the president-elect, signed by 1,100 health care professionals from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, was released on December 16. The document, which spans 32 pages, asks Trump to “tackle the climate crisis as a top priority in your office” and makes the environmental health case for reducing carbon emissions.

Citing the signers’ professional expertise in the “connection between preventing the worst impacts of climate change and human health,” the letter documents numerous proven links between climate change and illness, citing and linking to the 2016 Climate and Health Assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

The Health Case for Action

Environment America’s letter includes this (paraphrased) “wish list” for climate leadership:

1. Support the Clean Power Plan and encourage states to craft plans to reach and exceed their carbon reduction goals through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

2. Maximize investments in clean energy and transportation infrastructure such as solar and wind energy, energy-efficient buildings, public transit, and walkable communities.

3. Phase out drilling and mining for coal, gas, and oil on our public lands and waters.

4. Hold the oil and gas industry to the same standards as other industries by closing “loopholes” that risk our clean air and water.

5. Set the strongest possible fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for automobiles while encouraging policies and incentives that aid a transition to a zero-carbon transportation sector.

The Business Case for Action

LowCarbonUSA, a coalition of business, investor, and environmental groups coordinated by Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Ceres, Environmental Defense Fund, and others, published their own online letter to Mr. Trump (which also addresses President Obama, members of the U.S. Congress, and global leaders). Signatories represent nearly 500 people, including leaders of major corporations such as eBay, NIKE, and Tiffany & Co.

Their statement makes the business case for climate action:

“We want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy.….Implementing the Paris Agreement will enable and encourage businesses and investors to turn the billions of dollars in existing low-carbon investments into the trillions of dollars the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all.”

LowCarbonUSA’s wish list includes broad guidelines for shaping national and international economic policy:

1. Continuation of low-carbon policies to allow the US to meet or exceed our promised national commitment and to increase our nation’s future ambition

2. Investment in the low-carbon economy at home and abroad in order to give financial decision-makers clarity and boost the confidence of investors worldwide

3. Continued U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement, in order to provide the long-term direction needed to keep global temperature rise below 2°C

What We Can Do Now

Besides continuing to speak out and affirm our commitment to positive action on climate, the healthcare community can create “New Year’s resolutions” that help to fulfill these wish lists in our jobs and lives. For example, we can read and share the Climate and Health Assessment Report; take public transit and support transit-centered development in our communities; and get rooftop solar to heat and power our offices, hospitals, and homes. And we can work with our elected leaders to start or expand renewable energy initiatives being advanced widely at local and state levels.

The visions outlined by LowCarbonUSA offer other ideas. For example, we can encourage our state to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector. We can urge our own institutions to make clean-energy investments – on site, and in how they manage their funds. This might include divesting from fossil fuel stocks, as some medical societies, hospitals, and health care organizations are already doing. And we can patronize businesses that signed LowCarbonUSA’s letter, because their operations are already moving in a sustainable direction.

By the way, you can still sign on to show your support for the declaration in ecoAmerica’s letter here.

For Dr. Susan Pacheco, Climate Care Is Health Care

Ten years ago, Dr. Susan Pacheco, a pediatric immunologist/allergist at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston, was concerned about the increasing incidence and severity of asthma and allergies in her young patients. But like many people, she hadn’t yet made the connection between climate change and what she was seeing in her work.

Today, she is one of the medical community’s top climate leaders, finding opportunities in every area of her life to educate and organize around solutions to carbon pollution. That persistent passion led the White House to name her one of 11 public health “Champions of Change” for 2013. (Three members of Climate for Health’s current Leadership Circle were also so honored: Dr. Laura Anderko, Gary Cohen, and Dr. Linda Rudolph.)

Susan Pacheco’s journey and the variety of ways she participates (while still juggling a practice, teaching, and her family) offer examples of both large and small ways to mobilize support for climate progress that can be tailored to one’s own talents, location, and schedule.

The Moment of Truth

One evening back in 2006, Dr. Pacheco was trying to help her eldest son with his science homework, on climate change. She decided it would be educational for them both to see the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” then in theaters – and wound up taking her husband and their two other children as well.  The film shook her to the core. She had an epiphany: “My planet is sick.” And that meant she had a “moral responsibility, as a person and as a doctor” to help heal it, as she later told Texas Climate News.

So she started reading everything she could get her hands on, and she soon applied to join the Climate Reality Project, a corps of volunteers from around the world trained to give the same eye-opening slide show former Vice President Al Gore gives in his film, but live, in their own communities.  Since then, she’s presented the talk numerous times to professional, religious, business, Latino, and other groups, and now serves as a trainer and mentor to new volunteers.  She talks more about it in the video below.

 

Finding a Niche

Along the way, Dr. Pacheco’s focus moved from planetary to personal. Her growing knowledge allowed her to trace the connections between the wheezing and heat sensitivity she was seeing in her young patients and the greenhouse-gas-driven air pollution and high temperatures in the region where she works. “I realized that climate change was not only about protecting polar bears, but also protecting children and their families, their physical and emotional health,” she told an interviewer with Global Moms Challenge last year.

Because “the damaging effect of climate change in human health was a neglected topic in the climate conversations,” Dr. Pacheco decided to focus her advocacy on educating people on these connections. She now consults on public policy with high-level groups such as the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. But sometimes her contribution is as simple as answering a reporter’s question on climate and health. She is a member of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, which matches media and government inquiries about climate change with experts who can best address them.

Taking It Local

She has also created her own presentations tailored to the community in which she lives and works—which happens to be the epicenter of U.S. fossil-fuel production.  This past November, for example, she gave a keynote speech on “The Human Impacts of Climate Change,” at a local, cross-disciplinary sustainability conference called Intersections 2016 at the University of Houston Downtown.

She has also helped organize and amplify the voices of other leaders in the Lone Star State, founding both the Alliance of Health Professionals Against Climate Change, focused on spreading information on climate and health to their patients, and the Texas Coalition for Climate Change Awareness, a network of diverse individuals focused on learning about and educating their fellow Texans on climate change.

A Never-Ending Conversation

Beyond these more formal activities, she takes the message that climate care is health care to the people she sees every day. Dr. Pacheco told Texas Climate News, “I talk about climate to every person that I can. That’s not an exaggeration.”

For example, she integrates the subject into lectures for her medical-school students at the University of Texas Health Science Center, where she is an associate professor of pediatrics, and is working to make information on the links between climate and health a standard part of the curriculum at all medical schools. 

Dr. Pacheco routinely introduces the topic into conversations with concerned parents who bring their kids in to her clinic, explaining how climate change harms air quality and ramps up temperatures, advising them to keep an eye on heat and air-quality indexes so they that can better manage the respiratory problems greenhouse gases can aggravate in children. She told NBC News, “What worries me the most is the vulnerability of the populations that are not as blessed as we are that have access to knowledge,” especially communities of color and the homeless, who are already feeling greater impacts of climate change.

And on a more informal basis, she’s started conversations with other parents.  As she told Global Moms, “The moment mothers realize the threat climate change poses to their children’s health, the focus of climate conversations will change. The world does not want to mess with a mother bear trying to protect her threatened cubs!”

You’re Next?

Clearly, not every heath professional is going to become a climate advocacy superstar.  But even committing to one thing – giving a presentation to coworkers, becoming an on-call expert, serving on a panel at a local conference, or weaving climate messages into medical advice to your patients or students, can have a ripple effect. Especially now that positive federal action on the environment is not guaranteed, we ourselves need to lead.

 

 

 

 

American Leaders to Trump: U.S. Must Look Forward, Not Backward on Climate Change

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to reverse much of the progress our nation has made on climate. His recent appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a fierce critic of the Environmental Protection Agency, to be the EPA’s administrator is a clear indication he intends to follow through on that plan. This is why almost 100 American religious leaders, health and medical professionals, business executives, community leaders, and educators signed an open letter to Trump calling for a clean-energy future in this country.

The declaration, which was spearheaded by ecoAmerica, was published this morning as a full-page statement in USA TODAY. It advises Mr. Trump that the multiple benefits of climate solutions align with his primary goals of growing the economy, bringing jobs back to America, and strengthening national infrastructure. The signatories added their voices to a growing list of mayors, scientists, business leaders, and environmental groups who have released major public statements urging Mr. Trump to heed scientific facts about climate change.

The Chairman of ecoAmerica’s Board of Directors, former U.S. Undersecretary of State Frank Loy, said the statement was placed to send President-elect Trump a message that everyday Americans are concerned about the future. “The diverse leaders in our extensive network are not environmentalists as such. But they strongly believe that America should keep its climate commitments, including the international Paris Agreement reached a year ago. We should be leading the world on climate solutions. Undoing the progress made to date would be disastrous for the future of our planet.”

ecoAmerica urges local, faith, and health leaders around the country to join us in raising our voices for climate progress. Read and sign the statement at AmericansforClimateSolutions.com.

 

New Ways to Engage U.S. Latinos on Climate and Health

One of ecoAmerica’s major goals for 2017, according to president Bob Perkowitz, is to “ramp up discussion on climate equity with our partners” and to “integrate all cultural and ethnic groups into talking about climate.” That’s where the growing, diverse U.S. Latino community is poised to play a pivotal role.  Representing 17 percent of the US population—56 million people– it is expected to encompass 29 percent by 2060.

Already prominent in all sectors of U.S. society, Latinos are becoming climate leaders in population centers like Miami and Los Angeles, where sea level rise and drought are tangible realities. To fully tap this potential and engage Latinos more effectively, ecoAmerica conducted three stages of research to better understand the attitudes, values, and priorities of Latinos around climate change and to discover the words, phrases, and messages that most closely align with these concerns.

The result is the Let's Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate U.S. Latinos report and webinar, released December 1. Attended by nearly 100 people, the live discussion featured Perkowitz; Jonathan Voss, vice president of Lake Research Partners; Kirra Krygsman, ecoAmerica’s research manager; and Adrianna Quintero, executive director and founder of Voces Verdes, a Latino environmental advocacy organization. (The block quotes in this blog are Quintero's words.)

The first part of the webinar provided an overview of the study’s methods and findings. The top insights:

  • Some 85 percent of Latinos not only accept that climate change is happening and that humans contribute to it, but also are more concerned about the topic than the American public at large. Those who speak primarily Spanish, including recent immigrants, are the most concerned of all.
  • The cultural beliefs and values that most resonated with Latinos in terms of climate were a sense of moral responsibility and concern for their family’s welfare. 
  • This ethic of care extends to a belief that government should act on climate change– including holding polluters accountable– and a willingness to act personally and collectively to make a difference.
  • Most Latinos surveyed expressed optimism that a clean-energy economy will create jobs and not cost too much.

Climate change affects us here in the U.S., it affects our family abroad, and it affects our futures.

The second part of the webinar focused on how to use the right language to turn Latinos’ climate concern into action. As the study showed, some types of communication work better than others.

  • Words count. For example, it’s more empowering to say “we” instead of “you” or talk about protecting “air, water, and land” for the next generations rather than “saving the planet” or polar bears.
  • Don’t blind people with science.  Instead, make climate change personally and locally relevant by asking questions, telling stories, and presenting opportunities.
  • Messages should be inclusive. We need to emphasize that climate solutions benefit all Americans. 

While the Let's Talk Climate guide can be used by anyone to more effectively engage Latino audiences, it’s best if the messenger comes from within the Latino community. For full details, download the report here. You can listen to a recording of the webinar here.

Health Connections

While these insights apply in fields across the board, they are especially relevant to health care professionals working with Latino patients and in predominantly Latino neighborhoods. Health is a powerful driver of climate concern and action in Latino communities, which are often located near polluting industries such as refineries and power plants. These communities suffer disproportionately from health concerns caused by the drivers and effects of climate change.

Consider these statistics assembled by ecoAmerica partner Voces Verdes:

  • More than 60 percent of Latinos live in states that are among the most affected by severe heat, air pollution, and flooding.
  • One out every two Latino Americans live in counties that frequently violate air-pollution standards; consequently, Latino children are 60 percent more likely to develop asthma than non-Hispanic white children.
  • Latinos comprise almost half of U.S. farm production workers and more than a quarter of construction workers, outdoor occupations that expose them to unhealthy heat exposure.
  • Many in the Latino population are under-insured or uninsured, meaning preventable illnesses can become disabling or life-threatening.

A desire to alleviate these health impacts is one key component in translating Latinos’  pre-existing climate concern and motivation into action. But what might that look like on the ground?

From Theory to Practice

Voces Verdes’ communications and organizing work of over the past two years provides one model. Using techniques that dovetail with Let’s Talk Climate’s recommendations – and are informed by lived experience – the organization works to ensure that Latino voices are heard in Congress, at international forums, and in the media. 

Founded in 2009, Voces Verdes is a national coalition of Latino leaders from many sectors calling for a move away from fossil fuels and toward a clean-energy, green jobs economy. Health is a big focus: For example, Voces Verdes’ clean-air efforts emphasize protecting health and families.

Now is the time to unite, to make sure the voices of Latinos are heard.

When a crisis or opportunity arises that will spotlight these issues or advance their goals, Voces Verdes mobilizes with like-minded organizations to “flex their political muscles,” as a reporter for Washington, D.C.’s The Hill newspaper put it. For example, in 2014, Voces Verdes was part of a bipartisan, 28-organization coalition of Latino groups publicly backing the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. regulations, which are designed to avert water pollution

Issuing position statements, along with bilingual press releases that target both English and Spanish news outlets, is also a key strategy. In March of this year, Voces Verdes endorsed and promoted the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda’s 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda (which has an extensive section on health and health care, along with a platform for climate action).

Knowledge is power, and this past October, Voces Verdes teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council to produce its own report, Nuestro Futuro: Climate Change and U.S. Latinos. Published in both Spanish and English, it combines the latest demographic data, public opinion research, and climate and health science to illustrate the unique dangers of climate change to U.S. Latinos where they live and work and shows how Latino advocacy can foster healthier lives and greater prosperity. This report – like ecoAmerica’s – can serve as an educational tool among the community and in outreach to government and NGOs.  Climate and health leaders may find it a useful complement to the Let’s Talk Climate report and ecoAmerica’s 15 Steps guidelines in tailoring their own outreach and organizing efforts.

All of these approaches are replicable wherever you may practice – and can and should be scaled locally. You may wish to partner with a local chapter or affiliate of one of these national Latino groups:

Voces Verdes

NHLA

National Council of La Raza

ASPIRA

Mi Familia Vota (in AZ, CA, CO, FL, NV, and TX only)

 

 

 

 

 

5 Areas Where Changes to Environmental Laws May Affect Climate & Health

During the Thanksgiving holiday, you may have had a chance to discuss climate change and the recent elections at gatherings with family and friends (or avoided it to keep the peace).

Now that we’re getting back to work, we do have to communicate with our patients and peers about how all the recent news relates to health, and what to do about it. That can be challenging, because it’s hard to stay abreast of all the headlines and make sense of what they might imply.

In particular, climate and health leaders will need to pay attention to the status of environmental protection laws under the new President. Donald J. Trump has said that during his first 100 days in office, he intends to ease or remove regulations the Obama Administration put in place to clean up fossil-fuel energy production and protect environment and health. According to an article by Marianne Lavelle in the Pultizer Prize-winning news site Inside Climate News (ICN), at least nine such rules could be affected. 

If environmental protection laws are weakened or eliminated, that could lead to more health problems linked to fossil-fuel related pollution of our air, water, and land, or from occupational exposures in the oil and gas industries.

Regulation Cheat Sheet

Following are summaries of some of the existing rules that the new President or Congress may try to revoke or change, and their connections to climate and health.

1. Carbon Emissions

The Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s key 2014 initiative to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired powered plants, sets state-by-state targets for reducing emissions and moving to cleaner forms of energy by 2030.

Climate/health connections: Besides being one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions, coal plants emit 84 of the 187 hazardous air pollutants identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These pollutants include mercury, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter. Health conditions linked to coal burning include cancer, heart disease, and many respiratory ailments.

2. Methane Emissions

Several recent methane regulations might be eliminated or loosened under the new administration. The EPA last spring created two new methane rules. The first rule is for new facilities and requires energy companies to monitor methane leaks and maintain facilities to help prevent these leaks. The second rule will regulate methane leaks at existing facilities. Also at risk of reversal is the Interior Department’s recent (Nov. 15) Methane and Waste Prevention Rule to curb venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas (which is mostly methane).

Climate/health connections: Besides being a powerful greenhouse gas, methane is highly explosive. Close exposure is associated with symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Flaring of methane on oil fields creates additional air pollution and fire risk.

3. Coal Waste

The EPA’s coal ash regulations, finalized in October 2015, require safer disposal of coal ash, a byproduct from burning coal.

Climate/health connections: Coal ash contains mercury and heavy metals and can get into air, land, and water. Exposure can lead to illnesses including cancer and neurological problems.

4. Water Pollution

The Waters of the U.S. rule clarifies the rules protecting streams and wetlands under the federal Clean Water Act. Among other things, it affects fracking for oil and gas because it gives the federal government more control over industrial activities near or through bodies of water.

Climate/health connections: Among other things, spills of fracking chemicals and wastewater – which can contain radioactive substances – may pollute land or water and lead to health problems. Conversely, healthy streams and wetlands help ensure clean water downstream. Also, wetlands help moderate flooding, which we are seeing more of under climate change; floods can carry water-borne diseases and displace communities.

The Interior Department’s blowout prevention rules, which were developed after the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, are designed to make the offshore drilling industry safer.

Climate/health connections: Water pollution from both oil spills and the chemicals used in cleanup can harm people in shoreline communities. Spills kill fish and other sea life, compromising the food supply. Oil-rig accidents can injure or kill workers.

5. Fracking Pollutants

Regulations covering hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands were designed to make fracking safer by requiring energy companies to say which chemicals they are using, among several other safeguards.

Climate/health connections: See Waters of the U.S. rule, above. In addition, it is hard to know how to diagnose and treat symptoms that may be related to fracking if the chemicals used are unknown.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Department’s crystalline silica exposure rules were designed to protect oil and gas workers from the effects of unsafe levels of dust created by the use of large amounts of sand in the fracking process.

Climate/health connections: Silica exposure is linked to lung cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and kidney disease.

Will It Happen?

How likely the president-elect and his chosen agency heads are to succeed in changing the rules depends on a few things, including how recently a regulation was passed and whether it is already being challenged in court. (The Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the U.S. rule, and the regulations on fracking on federal lands are currently tied up in litigation.)

The bad news, according to regulatory experts ICN interviewed:

“Under an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act, Congress could review and override recent major regulations by a simple majority vote…. any regulation finalized after May 30 could be subject to Congressional override….A Congressional override of a rule would have long-lasting consequences; the agency would be prohibited from enacting a similar regulation again in the future.”

The good news:

“To undo a regulation that has been finalized, the Trump administration would have to begin a public notice and comment period all over again, address those comments and publish an analysis to support its decision…. It is a process that often takes years. The administration would face lawsuits by environmental and public health groups as well as states and industry groups….And the Trump administration also could face litigation for any failure to regulate.”

Ultimately, while many rules can’t be instantly undone by executive order, the President can cut agency budgets, limit enforcement, and stop defending regulations such as the Clean Power Plan against ongoing legal challenges.

What You Can Do

Ultimately, what happens is partly up to us. As ecoAmerica president Bob Perkowitz noted recently, “The next few weeks and months will have monumental impact on climate change and…each of us [needs to] maximize our effectiveness during this key period.”

We will need to mobilize if our new President acts on his energy-related pledges. To maintain safeguards on the climate and our health, health professionals will need to correspond and meet with government leaders at every level in a constructive way – especially state representatives, because states can create and enforce environmental standards stronger than those the Federal Government requires. Such an approach worked for the Blackfeet tribe of Montana, whose negotiations with federal and state leaders and a private energy company led last week to the cancellation of gas leases on land that is sacred to the Blackfeet.  

Constructive engagement was one of the topics of a conference call ecoAmerica held November 29. “Protecting Climate Progress: A Way Forward” was attended by more than 200 professionals.  Speakers including Perkowitz; Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association; Jackie Dupont Walker, Director, Social Action Commission, African Methodist Episcopal Church; Jonathan Voss, Vice President, Lake Research Partners; and Joe Romm, Editor, Climate Progress. The discussion encompassed the implications of the recent election and laid out strategies to help galvanize our leadership and collective progress on climate solutions.  A summary of the meeting is available here.

 

Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]

ANHE’s New e-Textbook Features Climate Guidance for Nurses

Since its founding in 2008, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE), a member organization of Climate for Health, has been fulfilling a mission of promoting healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice, and influencing policy. ANHE’s most recent initiative captures all four of these goals in the form of its new e-textbook, Environmental Health in Nursing

This free, open-access, peer-reviewed guide is intended for nurses and other health professionals at all levels. The 160-page, illustrated textbook was edited by leading environmental health nursing experts and shares their environmental health knowledge, expertise, and experiences. It also has the potential to be an important tool for climate communication and action through nursing practice.

What's Inside

The e-textbook is divided into eight units, plus an introduction and conclusion: Why Nursing; Harmful Environmental Exposures and Vulnerable Populations; Environmental Health Sciences; Practice Settings; Sustainable Communities; Climate Change; Energy; Advocacy; and Research.

Besides providing a detailed overview of the topic at hand, each unit is rich with live links to resources such as interviews, webinars, videos, and informative websites. Full references are included.

Among other things, readers will find the Top 10 Reasons That Nurses and Environmental Health Go Together, learn about hazardous exposures in health care settings, explore environmental justice, learn how to hold a successful legislative meeting, and get to know researchers and their work via detailed Q&As.

Another important feature of the guide is its electronic format. Besides a search function that lets readers instantly find information on a topic of interest, it contains direct links to authoritative resources such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Toxicology Data Network (ToxNet) and the World Health Organization

Eye on Climate

Environmental Health in Nursing devotes a chapter to climate change. Topics covered include the basic science; its main effects on the environment; climate-related health conditions such as Zika virus and mental health problems; and patients who are likely to be disproportionately impacted by these ailments.

The section was written by Laura Anderko, Chair of Values-Based Health Care at Georgetown University, and Stephanie Chalupka, Associate Dean for Nursing at Worcester State University and a visiting scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

About the Editors

The textbook’s editors are Jeanne Leffers, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Claudia M. Smith, retired Assistant Professor, University of Maryland Baltimore School of Nursing; Ruth McDermott-Levy, Associate Professor and Director of Villanova University’s College of Nursing’s Center for Global and Public Health; Barbara Sattler, Professor, University of San Francisco; and Katie Huffling, ANHE Director of Programs.

Environmental Health and Nursing was “truly was a labor of love,” according to Huffling.  “I hope this e-textbook will become the go-to resource for nurses in the coming months and years ahead as the work of environmental health becomes even more vital to the health of our nation.”

Environmental Health in Nursing is intended to be a living document, so ANHE welcome ideas for new topics and potential authors in subsequent editions. Contact Katie with questions or comments at [email protected] or 240-753-3729.

ANHE & Climate for Health Join Forces

The release of ANHE’s electronic textbook coincides with a new collaboration with ecoAmerica and the Climate for Health leadership community. These collaborative efforts are designed to build support for climate solutions in the United States over the coming year.

The partnership has four goals:

1. Building visible national leadership on climate solutions within the nursing sector;

2. Creating climate-literate nursing professionals who can lead on climate;

3. Engaging all national nursing associations and their members in climate action; and

4. Building collective action for climate solutions within nursing and across the health sector.

Among other things, the collaboration will recruit nursing associations to join climate initiatives and develop resolutions and action plans; create educational materials in many mediums to train nurse leaders as trainers and communicators; and create metrics to measure awareness, attitudes, and behaviors around climate and health. The partnership will develop several events, culminating in the first national Conference on Climate, Health, and Nursing for nurse leaders. Stay tuned for details as they evolve!

 

 

Climate for Health Plays a Big Role at Major Public Health Conference

Climate for Health just returned from another invigorating American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting. This year’s conference, held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, accepted an impressive 32 sessions on the topic of climate change and health.

Following are some of the highlights.

Learning Institute – Climate Change and Health

We kicked off the week with APHA’s first-ever, day-long Learning Institute: "Climate Change and Health: Building Your Expertise and Leadership for a 21st-Century Climate for Health." The Institute, co-organized by ecoAmerica, was a collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and was intended to fill identified gaps in public health training and practice.

Thirty participants joined us for the Learning Institute, which was designed to prepare them to speak as climate-health leaders with peers, the public, and other leaders on climate and health impacts and solutions. The day began with expert presentations on the major impacts of climate on health, characteristics that increase vulnerability to climate change and health impacts, and techniques for quantitative assessment. After these sessions, we facilitated open discussions and fielded questions from public health practitioners on identifying key climate-health effects.

In the afternoon, participants extended these learnings into practice in a session focused on effective climate and health communication. There ecoAmerica shared the latest research-based guidance and tested language from our “Let’s Talk Climate” series, which is designed to equip health professionals to create and deliver compelling climate and health messages. Participants were trained in how to apply these findings and were provided with a toolkit that includes tips on what to avoid along with health-specific, vetted language for motivating behavior change and increasing support for climate and health solutions. The communications training was followed by interactive small-group exercises, table discussions, case studies, practice sessions, and a full-room discussion, allowing participants to apply new knowledge, build skills, and strengthen confidence.

Learning Institute Registration Scholarships

ecoAmerica awarded scholarships to more than ten individuals attending the Learning Institute, in order to expand and diversify the number of public health professionals who are supported in learning about climate and health, integrating core concepts into their work, disseminating messaging across their networks, and taking action to lead on climate and health solutions.

The scholarship recipients have a breadth of backgrounds and experience. They are students, educators, and professionals with expertise ranging from environmental, community, and international health to nursing and environmental education. Hailing from a diversity of places including California, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., all of the participants came to Denver to serve as APHA Climate for Health Champions. Now that they have completed the Learning Institute, they will continue to work on expanding awareness of and engagement on climate change as a health priority within both public health and the APHA.

Watch an overview of our Learning Institute here and read more about it here.

Climate Change Social Hour

The Learning Institute kept us busy, but we also got a chance to get out of the convention hall and head over to a restaurant on Denver’s 16th Street Mall for a Climate Change Social Hour. Sponsored by the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance and the APHA Climate and Health Topic Committee with support from ecoAmerica, this event provided an opportunity to mingle and network with APHA members interested in climate change, learn about upcoming climate events and sessions at the conference, and engage with great work happening on climate and health. This crowded social hour was an excellent opportunity to catch up with existing partners and meet new potential collaborators. The wine and artichoke dip weren’t bad either!

Making the Connection: Climate Changes Health

 

For our session, "Making the Connection: Climate Changes Health," we reprised in person our Spring 2016 four-part climate and health webinar series (which was co-sponsored by APHA and ecoAmerica and produced in conjunction with four other national health and medical associations). This time, we placed an even greater emphasis on climate change’s disproportionate impacts upon vulnerable populations, as well as emerging solutions to protect and promote public health and health equity in a changing environment.

The session was moderated by Bob Perkowitz, ecoAmerica Founder and President, and featured an inspiring panel of leading national experts: Mona Sarfaty, Director, Program on Climate and Health at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University; Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, Executive Director, Children's Environmental Health Network; Susan Clayton, Professor of Psychology at The College of Wooster; and Linda Rudolph, Director, Center for Climate Change and Health at the Public Health Institute. The speakers highlighted the link between climate change and public health across four key areas: allergies and asthma, children’s health, mental health, and healthy community design and transportation. Participants were also introduced to additional educational resources including the original “Climate Changes Health” webinar series, available online.

This session was very well attended. Participants left armed with foundational knowledge about some of the most critical climate-related health impacts and their solutions, along with a greater awareness that becoming an advocate for climate action is a public health and health-equity imperative.

Watch a summary of our panel discussion here.

Expo Booth: #LetsTalkClimate

Throughout the conference, ecoAmerica exhibited at the Public Health Expo, where we greeted many of our public health colleagues from around the country and the globe! We also shared information about our research, resources, and objectives. In particular, we spotlighted our new report, Let’s Talk Health and Climate: Communication Guidance for Health Professionals, which proved to be enormously popular with those who stopped by our booth.

We also ran a Twitter campaign to help promote the importance of effective health and climate communication among health professionals, sharing images of attendees posing with our eye-catching photo frame and key quotes from the guide for maximum impact. (See photo collage for a sampling.) Participants also tweeted about their experiences, interests, and passions in climate change and health using the hashtag #LetsTalkClimate.

We loved learning about what everyone is doing and finding potential intersections to work together. Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth–and congratulations to Ann Backus, Director of Outreach at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, for being the winner of our random prize-drawing! We’re grateful for your work and hope you enjoy the Amazon gift card.

See You Next Year!

Between all of these activities, we found some time to attend additional sessions and explore the exhibit hall. A highlight was APHA and Denver’s Environmental Health Day of Action event, which featured speakers such as Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services, and Bob McDonald, Executive Director of Denver Environmental Health and ended with a one-mile “walk-shop” around Denver!

Though I had attended several prior APHA conferences, this was the first time I viewed the proceedings through the lens of climate change and health. My main takeaway from this year's meeting is the imperative to emphasize climate- change solutions across every public health discipline and topic area. Climate change is not simply an environmental health issue; cross-collaboration is essential for maximum impact.  

I and all of us with Climate for Health look forward to collaborating with colleagues we met at the conference and to continuing to work with our Learning Institute participants as we track their impact in communicating about climate change and health. Looking farther ahead, we eagerly anticipate integrating climate change into each and every sector of APHA and at next year’s event, as 2017 will be APHA’s “Year of Climate Change and Health.”  See you in Atlanta! 

Jane S. Chang is the new Program Manager, Health at ecoAmerica.

 

 

 

 

 

While Countries Negotiate, We Can Communicate

Ready, set, heal the planet! Jonathan Pershing, Ph.D., the United States’ special envoy for climate change, is now in Marrakech, Morocco, one of the official representatives from nearly 200 countries attending the United Nations’ COP 22* climate negotiations, which began on November 7. Their ambitious task: forge specific plans for implementing the greenhouse-gas reduction pledges embodied in the 2015 “Paris Agreement” to keep global temperatures within safer limits.

Whether you find these distant events exciting or tedious, you’re probably asking yourself, “What are the connections between the U.N. talks and the work we do every day as health care professionals who are also climate advocates?” More than you might realize.

Making the Health Case

Health-focused NGOs are making their mark in Marrakech right now – at the scores of official “side events” running concurrently with the meetings themselves.  These events provide a forum for “observer” groups who are not part of the formal negotiations to share knowledge and ideas on meeting the climate challenge and to build their networks of collaborators. Attendees come from the United States and all over the world, and simultaneous translation is usually provided in several languages.

There will be several side events on climate and health. For example, on November 14, Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the World Health Organization will present one themed Air Pollution, Climate Change & Health: Scaling up Solutions to Heal the Planet. On November 15, the WHO, the children’s advocacy group UNICEF, and a coalition of other groups will offer an overview on how the public-health community can support the implementation of the Paris Agreement for a healthier and more sustainable society.

UNICEF is also an example of how groups are using the talks as a way to leverage their own message. The organization released a new report, Clear the Air for Children,  a week before the meetings and paired it with an official call for global action on air pollution.  Their study shows that 300 million children globally, or 1 in 7, live in areas with the most harmful levels of outdoor air pollution –  some even in U.S. cities.  These pollutants are at concentrations much higher than international standards allow, and are linked to asthma, bronchitis, and other chronic ailments. UNICEF points out that many of the same disease-causing air pollutants also contribute to climate change. That means any solutions world leaders commit to  – such as monitoring emissions and ramping up solar and wind power – hold benefits for both public health and the climate.

The now-annual U.N. negotiations last less than two weeks, but there are plenty of actions we can take all year long to contribute to a healthier atmosphere. And the facts call us to do so. As Dr. Pershing has cautioned, “Even if we were only able to halt the [temperature] rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is an effort we are seeking to do under the agreement, the damages would be severe.”

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

 

One place we can start is in our parking lots and driveways. Americans love cars, but the transportation sector is responsible for emitting more than one-quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gases. Fortunately, there’s a lot of potential in cleaning up the auto industry.  The American Lung Association of California recently analyzed the benefits of reducing air pollutants via a wide-ranging transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and other emissions-free autos by 2050. Their finding: These emissions cuts could save more than $33 billion in both health care and climate-related costs. And that’s just in the 10 states that currently have zero-emission vehicles sales programs!

This news provides another argument for switching local government fleets and health-care facility vehicles to EVs in every state – and for trading in your personal gas car for, say, a Volkswagen eGolf or Chevy Volt.  Soon, there will be less worry about where to plug them in: A public-private consortium including the federal Department of Transportation, states, utilities and automakers is laying the groundwork for a nationwide, 2,500-mile network of 48 EV charging station “corridors,” so would-be owners have more places to plug in these quieter, zero-emissions cars. Thinking and talking about transportation choices are types of everyday “climate negotiations” we can start or join.

For health-specific updates on the U.N. talks, you can follow the Global Climate and Health Alliance at @GCHAlliance. If you’d like a closer look at events, the U.S. Center at UNFCCC will be broadcasting live at http://www.state.gov/USCenter. You can even submit questions via Twitter at @AskUSCenter. 

For further ideas on talking climate with your peers and constituents at home, why not download ecoAmerica’s new American Climate Leadership Summit Recommendations Report.  Its lessons confirm that climate leadership can come from anywhere, and takes many forms.

 

* COP 22 stands for ‘Conference of the Parties. It is the top decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international environmental treaty that entered into force in 1994.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storms’ Health Effects Open Opportunities for Climate Action

The fourth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy on October 29 was a sobering reminder of the unique professional and personal challenges faced by health professionals who live and work in low-lying coastal areas. This kind of intense weather, which we are seeing more often under climate change, can cause extensive flooding like that after Hurricane Matthew less than a month ago.  Extensive flooding leads to increased health risks, from drinking water shortages to water-borne diseases. In the case of North Carolina, it even led to more than 40 deaths.  But it’s also provided models for positive action.

Hit, and Helped, at Home

As North Carolina Health News reported, hospitals in Robeson County, NC faced record high water levels that knocked out the electrical grid, causing power outages and submerging the water-treatment plant in the city of Lumberton. Joann Anderson, CEO of Southeastern Health, which operates the Southeastern Regional Medical Center there, worked around the clock with state and local leaders to keep the hospital running and ensure that patients continued to receive proper care. However, until normal services are restored, too-much rainwater and not-enough running water means staff there must be resourceful. As Anderson explained, hospitals need a great deal of water for everything from hand washing to sterilizing surgical equipment, so conservation is key.

Elsewhere in the Southeast, locals faced the risk of illnesses linked to bacteria in water that has spilled over from hog-waste lagoons on farms. Now, health professionals and patients alike may experience mental-health strains as the communities they love struggle to rebuild– especially children and elders, who are more sensitive to such stressors.

While not every hurricane can be linked directly to changes in the climate, Matthew is an example of the record storms and sea-level rise that have been linked to warmer air temperatures. Other health issues are associated with climate-related droughts in the West, which have reduced access to fresh water and the ability to grow nutritious food crops. And in cities all over the country, the “heat island effect” is cranking up heat waves.  Health professionals working in urban neighborhoods are seeing more cases of heat stroke in those without access to air conditioning.

Treating and Talking

For many of us, watching these climate-health connections play out in the news or experiencing them ourselves has been a clarion call to take climate actions large and small. Granted, health care careers are already very demanding, so consider integrating this work into what you are already doing to help your patients and your field.

Here are a few opportunities:

  • If you are doctor or nurse treating people for a condition related to a storm or flood, this may be a perfect pivot to talk to your patients about climate change: building awareness of its effects on a personal and local level, and how people can protect both their own health and our climate through positive behavior changes. Today that could mean reminding them to boil tap water for safety. Longer term, it could mean suggesting they ride a bike to work or school to increase fitness while cutting back on carbon pollution from driving a car. 
  • If you are a hospital administrator, take a look at ways to green up your everyday operations through money-saving practices – such as energy efficiency and waste reduction. Review  and check the systems you have in place for carrying on during storms, such as back-up generators and extra water supplies.  Consider creative resilience solutions, such as the 24/7 combined heat and power system Greenwich Hospital installed back in 2008. Four years later, during Hurricane Sandy, the system allowed the Connecticut hospital to continue normal operations—and even lets it go off the electrical grid during high-demand periods such as heat waves.
  • Share stories and ideas with your peers in the health care professions on how to respond to issues related to large storms, and help them to make the connections between climate, weather, and health solutions in their work and with the people they serve.
  • If you’re in public health, you can spend a few hours working with boards or committees involved with climate change preparation. For example, since Hurricane Katrina touched New Orleans, the city has revised its master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane protection to account for ongoing sea level rise. Expert help is needed.
  • Knowledgeable professionals can also speak out at public hearings and write letters to the editor or op-eds sharing medical knowledge that links extreme weather with health effects. You can also provide tips for taking actions that help protect both health and climate.

Resources

These conversations aren’t always easy, but several ecoAmerica research reports offer proven advice for such discussions. These guides include Climate for Health’s Let’s Talk Health & Climate: Communication Guidance for Health Professionals, and Beyond Storms and Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change (written in collaboration with the American Psychological Association). Webinars on these topics are also available. You can learn more about the former here and watch the latter here.

Health professionals can be the proverbial calm before (and after) the storm by using these serious events as openings to communicate about and implement positive climate solutions.

How Extreme Weather, Health, and Communities Connect

Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, is a Professor at the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles. A pediatrician, he has served in many leadership positions in both environmental health and infectious disease with the California Health Department, including the highest as the State Health Officer. For nine years he was Director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health in Atlanta and received the Presidential Distinguished Service award. In October, 2011 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Everyone remembers his or her first experience with extreme weather. I grew up in northern New Jersey and the early 1950s brought an especially active series of tropical storms. In 1955, Hurricane Diane roared through the Northeastern United States. I vividly recall the street where I lived crisscrossed with downed oak and elm trees and the city impassable for miles around. As a child, the storm was the most exciting show I had ever witnessed. Downed electrical wires sparked at the curbsides and neighbors scrambled to check on their homes and each other. I soon saw my neighbors pulling large branches from the roofs of their homes and covering the damage with tarps. I heard the fearful whine of chainsaws and the grunting and chugging of heavy equipment, backhoes, and grapple-skidders. The roadways were slowly cleared. For some reason we had not lost water supplies, though electricity was out for about 10 days.  I felt like quite the little frontiersman as I went out to collect scrap twigs and dried branches that could be burned in the fireplace to keep our home warm during the 10 days (although I don’t think we really needed the warmth, the adults probably needed some task to keep us boys busy).

My experiences were tame compared to those of the children in New Orleans in 2005 or those in Coney Island 2012. When bad outcomes ensue, such as the inundation of New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina, we initially blame them on an “Act of God,” but before long we realize that this act of nature has been amplified by shortsighted design and inadequate building codes. The disaster of Katrina was magnified by bad levees, slapdash building, and residential siting in inundation zones. All made worse by a dysfunctional system of local governance, especially the police department. The New York region is overall wealthier than New Orleans and was better prepared for Superstorm Sandy, but the populations at risk were far larger. Similarly, though, in the case of Sandy, many of the bad outcomes were predictable and could have been prevented, such as the inundation of NYU Medical Center and of the city of Hoboken, or the loss of $100 million worth of new railroad rolling stock because it had been thoughtlessly sidelined parked in a known flooding zone.

Extreme weather events allow us to see our communities at their best, and sadly at their most unseemly. The communities that are the most resilient—the ones that function well and recover most quickly—bring to their recovery an important mix of financial and infrastructure assets that are perhaps the most critical element in resilience and recovery. In “Tornado Alley” people living in brick homes with basements and with steel tiedowns for the foundations and roofs survive violent windstorms better than do the low income persons living in trailer parks. People with financial assets, such as a remote vacation home or a large SUV to help evacuate them in order to stay with unimpacted relatives, managed Hurricane Katrina far better than those with few resources. Those with adequate homeowners’ insurance policies rebuilt far sooner, and they rebuilt homes that were “up to code” and more resilient than the ones damaged or destroyed. And in the same way, those living in countries where national assets can be rapidly deployed to assist also manage more effectively than those with more limited assets.

Protecting health and being resilient in the face of extreme weather requires more, however, than solid financial resources. It requires a narrative of survival and of recovery. And that narrative must be personal and connected not just to the family, but also to the community, municipality, and jurisdiction. Studies of recovery after disasters demonstrate that families and neighborhoods where there was strong pre-existing social capital, namely community organizations, churches, and a strong volunteer culture, as well as competent and effective local governance, recovered from calamities more quickly than those without this. Communities that lack financial and social capital are more likely to fail to recover from disasters and end up in a diaspora; with persons and families scattered thousands of miles in every direction. This is what happened to many of the poor in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. At times a diaspora is exactly what is needed—not all locations are suitable for human habitation or redevelopment. For example, swampy areas subject to regular flooding may be good farmland but they are unlikely to be ideal for residential building. Desert areas can be turned into agricultural land, or even cattle feedlots, but only with enormous inputs of energy, water, and agricultural chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides. Creating habitation on unsuitable land is rarely a good long-term investment.

In my role in public health I have had substantial experience in health leadership roles following various crises and disasters. When I was with the California Department of Public Health, we had to address droughts, immense wildfires, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, as well as civil insurrections. When I was head of the National Center for Environmental Health at CDC we had to address hurricanes in Florida, massive floods along the Mississippi Valley, and inundations in the low country, and even the Piedmont on the East Coast, particularly the Carolinas. My Center developed and administered the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, which was directed and funded by Congress to be mobilized in the event of terrorism and pandemic threats; it was first deployed on September 11, 2001. In addition, CDC’s Refugee and International Health group was located in NCEH; it was frequently called on to respond to refugee crises in many parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. Each of these crises brought its own set of needs and different demands for response. And each of the various assistance groups tended to bring its own set of skills and supplies, ranging from drinking water and meals-ready-to-eat, all the way to temporary shelters and portable surgical hospitals. But in my own experience, the assets and help most often needed more than any other were: good intelligence (what is going on with whom, where, when, and for how long), solid management, and robust communication.

While these needs seem self-evident, they are rarely concurrently present, and I assert, the most commonly neglected need following these crises is effective communication. Many times I have been in the room with elected officials, physicians and health leaders, public safety personnel including police and fire, and emergency management experts, where each one narrowly focused on his or her own expertise. And then each looked to a third-party “expert” to confront a critical and urgent element of the response—that essential element is: communication. Yet, each of these leaders would delegate the task of communications to someone else: a public relations expert, or to a writer, or to a telegenic junior staff member. These “experts” frequently persisted in the belief that providing distressed disaster victims a list of facts once a day is adequate communication. But they fail to realize that effective community engagement is a two-way process. This near-predictable behavior reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of communication. Communication is not merely talking to or at people. Communication is—not just talking—but listening. Communication only occurs as a two-way activity. Just as every child is told “you have two ears and one mouth because you’re supposed to listen twice as much as you speak,” so those responding to extreme weather events and disasters need to hear and behave in the same way. Those in leadership roles must be listening clearly and synthesizing information, planning ahead; not merely directing traffic or offering dictates. Members of the community who are suffering must be conversed with, not just in their own language, but also in their own dialect and educational level. It is important to understand the