Filed under: Energy + Climate, Society + Media | Tags: ama, amsa, climate change, family doctors, family physicians, health care, pollution
The answer is not simple. When I first asked physicians to rate the importance of the impact of climate change on public health, they gave me a puzzled look. Yes, climate change affects health—more people are dying because of heat waves; there’s an increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases, such as asthma; natural disasters certainly caused a lot of death in the past year. But there’s so much to worry about, so many other problems to discuss with patients, so many other “higher priority issues” to be addressed.
But as we talk, more and more connections form in their minds. One physician grew up in a rural area, where trash was usually burned in her family’s backyard. “This gets you thinking about waste and recycling. No one wants trash in their backyards. It’s not good for health. And, so, we recycled.” She also remembers that in her hometown, a walk-to-school plan was implemented because of concerns with the increase in obesity rates in children. But this also helps reduce the number of cars on the roads, which means less pollution and maybe less respiratory diseases.
Aha! It takes a few moments to make the connections, but they’re certainly there. The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is helping the future generation of health care providers make connections between environmental issues and their impact on health. The American Medical Association is also starting to consider the environmental effects on health. Whether fighting climate change and pollution will ever be considered a preventive health care measure is still to be seen. But as communicators, we can help physicians and other health care professionals connect the dots.
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