The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change is an international research collaboration that monitors and reports annually on the relationship between health and climate, and its implications for national governments. It was launched following the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, which concluded that unmitigated climate change would undermine 50 years of public health gains, but that responding to climate change could represent “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.”
The 2021 Lancet Countdown U.S. Brief was released on October 21, 2021. In our most recent Let’s Talk Climate episode, we were joined by three pediatricians – Dr. Lisa Patel, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford School of Medicine; Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; and Dr. Rebecca Philipsborn, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, Emory University – who were on the writing team to discuss key findings, and using this recent dataset to advocate for children’s health in a changing climate.
This fun, inspiring, and motivational conversation covered youth advocacy on climate, medical training, and engaging your colleagues on climate, health, and equity. You can watch the full recording here.
We opened the conversation reflecting on the importance of this annual report, with Dr. Philipsborn saying, “This effort really helps equip us as clinicians, with science and help to bring to policy discussions and make sure we’re centering health and centering health equity.” She later built on this idea, recommending that healthy equity and systemic racism are more fully included in medical training to better treat and address the root cause of adverse health outcomes, “The roots at that disproportionate exposure to air pollution and policies that have been structurally discriminatory and, and I think that kind of education is critical for a workforce that’s meant to attend to the health of our children because how can we address these inequities if we are not addressing them if we’re not taught about them if we’re not looking to dismantle them?”
Each of our guests spoke movingly about the climate impacts they’re seeing in their regions and in their pediatric patients. Dr. Patel focused on heat, wildfires, and drought in the west. “We think about the wildfire smoke, we know that that pollution has adverse health effects, certain populations are more vulnerable and children, pregnant women and the elderly, in particular. And then we have to think about the mental health impacts. I work with a school psychologist in Sonoma where these kids have been evacuated so many times that she says that when kids so much as see the smoke in the sky, they start crying and having panic attacks.”
Dr. Bernstein ended the episode with the key insight, “We will never get health equity without climate action…. The fissures in society that inequities represent are the very fissures that get torn open by shocks, whether they’re climate shocks or pandemic shocks and to leave them exposed, makes our challenges with climate all the harder…climate must be seen as a foundation of health equity.”
Resources Shared During the Episode
New APA & ecoAmerica Mental Health Guide being released on November 4 at 2:00 pm ET register for the launch webinar here
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