Like many others, I have grown ever more concerned about the implications of uncontrolled climate change for public health. Those of us in health care have a special understanding of the suffering and loss that will occur because of our society’s failure to act urgently and decisively to curb the global dependence on fossil fuels. As the Lancet Commission noted, poor governance is a major obstacle to the development and implementation of effective environmental policies.
Here in the US, public opinion has been muted by misinformation and lobbying campaigns directed by the energy industry. The result is little political will for constructive engagement on climate change and climate impacts. It is worth noting that this is National Public Health Week, and on Monday the U.S. Global Change Research Program released a comprehensive report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the US. Concerted urgent action is needed if we are to realize humanity’s opportunities for improved health and well-being.
Over the past few years I’ve been joined by dedicated Minnesota doctors and nurses to form a new organization, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate (HPHC). Our goals are to educate health care professionals and institutions on the public health implications of climate change and to encourage a strong and sustained voice of health care providers to affect public attitudes and actions in this area. Like other public health campaigns such as smoking cessation or seat belt use, information about climate and pollution can be very effective in motivating change.
Last year, HPHC created and presented an accredited Continuing Medical Education Course, Climate Change and Public Health, an Interprofessional Review, as part of our efforts to educate health professionals on the connection between climate change and public health. We recently composed a letter to Minnesota legislators in support of Minnesota’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The letter, co-signed by over 125 doctors and nurses as well as 13 Minnesota health care organizations, urges Minnesota legislators to support our state’s plan to meet the standards of the federal CPP. It has received significant attention, including a recent feature in Midwest Energy News.
We need more health care professionals and groups to join our campaign so we can bring even more awareness to this critical issue. HPHC is training climate speakers, producing informational videos, lobbying officials, and writing letters and commentary pieces among other efforts. If you’re interested in adding your talents, energy and ideas to our efforts, you can contact us through our website , our Facebook page or email us directly at email@example.com. Health professionals can play a unique and powerful role in educating the public and policy makers on climate change and its impacts and encouraging them to act. I hope you’ll join us in advocating for a strong Clean Power Plan in Minnesota.
Dr. Bruce Snyder is a retired neurologist. He is a UCS Science Network member and works with several environmental organizations including the Sierra Club and Fresh Energy. He lives in Mendota Heights, Minnesota and is hoping the squirrels don’t eat his tulips.
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