Nurses across the country can see the impacts of climate change on patient health. While many of these nurses are noticing these adverse health affects, not all have the time or proper guidance to advocate for action. There are a growing number of health professionals who feel they cannot remain silent, however, and Climate for Health is pleased that some of them are a part of our leadership team. Health professionals have a vital role to play in advocating for limits on carbon emissions, and other dirty sources of power. Laura Anderko, a nurse and educator at Georgetown University School of Nursing, and an active member of the Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment (ANHE), is one of these leaders. Ms. Anderko understands the value of speaking up. We hope you'll take the time to read her article below, not only for the sake of learning about the overlaps between climate and health, but as an example of how health professionals can serve a significant public service role outside of the confines of patient examination rooms.
By Laura Anderko I August 26, 2015
Many heath organizations and health care providers recognize climate change for what it is: a clear and present danger to public health. With the impacts of climate change making themselves felt around the country and around the world, our elected leaders must take action to prevent suffering and promote healthy and safe communities by supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
The evidence that climate change is a significant health issue is undeniable. The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, has said climate change poses “an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health,” while U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has warned it will lead to more asthma attacks and more extreme weather events — such as floods and wildfires — that harm our health. In addition, more than 120 major health organizations have named climate change a serious public health issue.
That’s one important reason why the EPA has released the Clean Power Plan, which places the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants and will safeguard the health and wellbeing of Americans. This plan will be the greatest action the U.S. has ever taken against climate change.
Unfortunately, nurses like myself see the harmful health impacts of air pollution every day. In our offices, children gasp for breath during asthma attacks. Our patients suffer from heart attacks linked to dirty air. We cannot idly stand by and we cannot afford to delay action. Instead, we need to push for the strongest safeguards possible to protect vulnerable communities from pollution and climate change. Anything less is unacceptable and unethical.
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