In this politically heated time of year, many of us are tired of finger pointing, name-calling and divisiveness. Let’s get real: a mild case of pneumonia and 3:00 AM tweets are not central to the concerns we need our presidential candidates to address. Most importantly, not all issues fall to one side of the aisle. There are issues about which we all care deeply. Our health is most certainly one of these.
When political conversations turn contentious, here are three key points to make that can redirect toward the issues that really matter:
1. Focusing on climate solutions is a way to address public health on a major scale. As we know from the latest research, such as the White House’s scientific assessment earlier this year, one of the most significant drivers of health problems in the United States is climate change. As public health professionals with limited time and resources, it’s important that we get the most bang for our buck. That is, in health terms, helping the greatest number of affected people. Climate change affects our health through a myriad of interconnected issues, ranging from food and water, to air quality and weather. While there are populations who face increased risks, such as children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with low incomes, climate change poses significant threats to health even in wealthy communities. So reducing the severity of climate change is a solution to a wide range of growing health problems.
2. Clean energy is not a partisan issue. Conservatives and liberals alike are engaging on the topic, and coming together to advance clean energy measures. As ecoAmerica points out in the latest ecoAffect blog, there is now a House Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group that aims to educate House members about economically sound ways to reduce climate risks. The caucus, which was founded in February, is now up to 20 members, demonstrating a growing willingness to work across the aisle to advance climate solutions and preserve the earth for future generations.
3. Climate solutions benefit us all. Regardless of which candidate we may wind up with, our goal must be the same: to move toward energy solutions that reduce harm. As health professionals, there are many ways to do this. We can:
- focus on particular health issues resulting from climate change, and aim to reduce these impacts via our unique fields of work. Whether you’re a pediatrician, a psychologist, or an educator, climate change has a bearing on the work you do.
- hone in on improving sustainability practices within our health care institutions, such as healthy food, reducing toxic materials, and green building design.
- address issues concerning community design and transportation.
- use online tools and media to engage colleagues in discussion about preventing harm from climate change.
- encourage fossil fuel divestment.
We can do better. America needs improvements – from infrastructure to health care to food systems. As health providers, let’s aim high, disregard the bologna and work together. In the end, our nation is only as strong as our collective strength, regardless of who we vote for on November 8th.
Anna Linakis Baker, Writer and Social Media Manager for Climate for Health, has worked in the field of environmental health for over 15 years. She graduated from Georgetown University with a major in creative writing and has a Master of Public Health from Boston University. Email her at [email protected]
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