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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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