J500 Media and the Environment


Climate change and health: Connecting the dots by angelikeg
Physicians are busy. Family physicians, in particular, see approximately 24 patients each day, with 96 office visits and 11 hospital visits a week. Add that to all of the paperwork they need to do to get reimbursed and you have an average work week of 52 hours. Climate change is the last thing on physicians’ minds. Or is it?

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.

 

Global warming may have been the cause of an increase in natural disasters in 2007

Global warming may have been the cause of an increase in natural disasters in 2007

 

–Angelike Gaunt

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4 Comments so far
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Climate change and health: Connecting the dots…

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. ……

Trackback by Conspirama

I completely agree with you. I don’t think people in general have completely made the connection between climate change and health and if doctors don’t see it how can the general population. With the points you brought up it seems like doctors would be one group as whole at the forefront of fighting climate change. Doctors would be one group that could truly make a difference in the climate change discussion by helping people to understand how climate change affects their health.

Vanessa Ruperto

Comment by vanessar05

Vanessa,

I was somewhat surprised to hear that environmental issues are not so much on health care professionals’ minds. Of course, they understand that environmental problems affect health. But with the current situation of the health care system, climate change, pollution, etc., are not high priority. The good thing is that they’re open to hearing messages about the environment. One physician told me that what they need is for someone to remind them and to tell them how they can help. Family physicians, specifically, want to help. They’re community leaders, they treat the person as whole. We just need to tell them what to do, how to advocate for the environment.

I agree that doctors could make a real difference. Patients listen to what their doctors have to say. How can we help them help the environment? This will be my group’s challenge in the next few weeks. Let’s hope we can succeed.
Angelike G.

Comment by angelikeg

Superb post and you are a great writer.

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