A news release from the ACP: American College of Physicians issues urgent call to action on climate change to avert major threat to public health. The policy paper, unfortunately, is behind a paywall. Excerpt:
Climate change will have devastating consequences for public and individual health unless aggressive, global action is taken now to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the American College of Physicians (ACP) says in a new policy paper published today in Annals of Internal Medicine.
“The American College of Physicians urges physicians to help combat climate change by advocating for effective climate change adaptation and mitigation policies, helping to advance a low-carbon health care sector, and by educating communities about potential health dangers posed by climate change,” said ACP President Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP. “We need to take action now to protect the health of our community’s most vulnerable members -- including our children, our seniors, people with chronic illnesses, and the poor -- because our climate is already changing and people are already being harmed.”
ACP cites higher rates of respiratory and heat-related illnesses, increased prevalence of diseases passed by insects, water-borne diseases, food and water insecurity and malnutrition, and behavioral health problems as potential health effects of climate change. The elderly, the sick, and the poor are especially vulnerable.
As clinicians, physicians have a role in combating climate change, especially as it relates to human health, ACP says. ACP calls on the health care sector to implement environmentally sustainable and energy efficient practices and prepare for the impacts of climate change to ensure continued operations during periods of elevated patient demand. The health care sector is ranked second-highest in energy use, after the food industry, spending about $9 billion annually on energy costs.
Health care system mitigation focus areas include transportation, energy conservation/efficiency, alternative energy generation, green building design, waste disposal and management, reducing food waste, and water conservation.
“Office-based physicians and their staffs can also play a role by taking action to achieve energy and water efficiency, using renewable energy, expanding recycling programs, and using low-carbon or zero-carbon transportation,” Dr. Riley said.
ACP encourages physicians to become educated about climate change, its effect on human health, and how to respond to future challenges. ACP recommends that medical schools and continuing medical education providers incorporate climate change-related coursework into curricula.