Climate change poses a significant public health threat and harms individual patients, leading to increased rates of allergies, asthma, and respiratory and cardiovascular disease – and it’s time for policy makers and healthcare organizations to health are acting accordingly, says a WADA advisory on science and public health report whose recommendations were adopted at the 2022 WADA interim meeting in Honolulu.
“Scientific evidence continues to show the significant threat to public health posed by climate change. Physicians are already seeing firsthand the negative impact of climate change on the health of their patients,” said AMA Administrator Drayton Charles Harvey. He is a candidate for a dual MD-PhD degree at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and the California Institute of Technology.
“This is an existential threat. We must continue to do all we can to tackle the climate crisis and act now to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming,” Harvey added. “Doctors pledge not to harm, and now is the time for the health sector to do the same by joining forces to commit to decarbonization and public health.”
Climate change contributes to injuries and premature deaths from extreme weather events as well as heat-related deaths from continued warming. In addition, climate change has an impact on changes in the prevalence and geographic distribution of food- and water-borne diseases and other infectious diseases, the WADA board report states.
After declaring climate change a public health crisis in June, the AMA House of Delegates added to the existing policy a goal to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States aiming for a reduction of 50 % of emissions by 2030” with the existing policy calling for carbon neutrality by 2050.
Delegates also amended WADA’s policy to:
- Consider signing the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Care Commitment or making a similar pledge to reduce your own greenhouse gas emissions.
- Encourage the health sector to lead by example by committing to carbon neutrality by 2050.
Delegates also amended a separate policy on global climate change and human health to:
- Recognize that these climate changes have had adverse effects on people’s physical and mental health.
- Recognize that minority and marginalized populations, children, pregnant women, the elderly, rural communities and economically disadvantaged people will suffer disproportionate harm from climate change.
- Encourage physicians to help educate patients and the public about the effects of climate change on physical and mental health and about environmentally responsible practices, and serve as role models to promote environmental sustainability.
- Encourage physicians to work with health services to strengthen public health infrastructure to ensure that the effects of climate change on global health can be anticipated and treated more effectively, and that adaptation interventions are equitable and prioritize the needs of most-at-risk populations.
Check out other highlights from the 2022 AMA Interim Meeting.