Fire killings. Smoky air. Floods. Droughts. There is no avoidance of the reality that global warming is rapidly exacerbating threats to human health and communities in the United States and the world. As the best scientists have told us, we must immediately cut greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Governments and businesses are particularly in a hurry, but also citizens – we are all together. This includes you doctors.
Two Boston doctors believe that it is high time that medical professionals engage more directly in the fight to curb climate change in a commentary published in the New England Journal of Medicine magazine Wednesday. Leading author Karen Solomon, a doctor at Brigham Hospital and women, tells Vox that she was forced to write the article because the urgency of the climate crisis has become clearer and clearer.
to act immediately to try to prevent the most catastrophic consequences. Doctors have a special responsibility to do something, "she said. "And it will be much worse if we do not act now."
A separate review article on the impact of climate change on health, published in NEJM this week, specifies what is set for human health. Between 2030 and 2050, a quarter of one million deaths could be caused by climate-related health problems such as heat exposure, mosquito-borne diseases and floods. Air pollution, including domestic air pollution, is already causing 6.5 million premature deaths each year.
But that's not all: It turns out that the work of saving lives is part of the problem. In the United States alone, health care accounts for nearly a tenth of greenhouse gas emissions. Rescue equipment, such as CAT scanners, respirators, and dialysis machines, has huge energy needs that are currently receiving energy from fossil fuels. If US health was a country, according to Solomon and co-author Regina LaRocque, it would have a GDP of 3.3 trillion dollars and ranked seventh in the world on total emissions. Hospitals produce about one kilogram of hazardous medical waste per bed per day.
But it is now clear that the health sector has a huge opportunity to stop contributing so much to global warming and becoming a much larger player in the transition to clean energy. As Laroche and Solomon have noted, there are many good examples of what doctors, hospitals and healthcare companies can do. Let's look at them.
Hospitals have to follow leading venues such as Kaiser Permanente, Partners HealthCare and Boston Medical Center ̵
Gundersen Health Systems, a non-profit hospital network working in the Midwest, has already achieved this feat. They started to work for carbon neutrality in 2008 – and by 2014 they became the first US health system to achieve "energy independence," producing more energy than they consume through wind and solar power and methane from landfills.
Attorney Aurora Health, the 10th largest nonprofit healthcare system in the US, is also working to feed healthcare facilities with 100% renewable energy sources by 2030. They will probably do this by using a " off-site and purchased electricity from renewable sources, "according to Health Care Without Harm, an organization working with Advocate Aurora and other healthcare providers around the world to engage in a transition to 100% renewable electricity.
Doctors can educate politicians and the public about the impact of climate change on health
Doctors take a privileged position in society as trustworthy health authorities. "We can help motivate people to act by clarifying the links between environmental degradation and tangible issues such as air pollution, insect-borne diseases and heat stroke," Solomon and Laroche wrote. Physicians can also help the public understand the benefits of switching to greener energy sources.
And there is already a bunch of resources for doctors to inform and perform advocacy work. The American College of Physicians has a climate change toolkit that offers suggestions to guide doctors to reduce emissions in their practices. Also consider advocacy groups like harmless health, the medical community consortium and social responsibility doctors that offer guidelines for legislative action.
Health care companies can give up fossil fuel companies
Healthcare companies with large investment portfolios sometimes have stocks in polluting sectors – such as petroleum products, coal and natural gas. But several hospital systems, including San Francisco-based health, and doctors such as the Canadian Medical Association, are now joining the dynamic sales movement – selling their shares in these companies to reduce their financial dependence on them. Healthcare organizations, medical schools and individual doctors … can bring their financial strength in line with their health care mission by pulling out their retirement portfolios and donations from the fossil fuel industry, Solomon and Laroche write.
Doctors need to prepare to increase environmental health hazards related to climate change
As the climate changes, health risks are also being made. Higher temperatures make the new areas hospitable to insects such as ticks and mosquitoes. Lym's disease now appears in Canada, and a locally acquired case of chikungunya with mosquito appears in Texas for the first time in 2016.
Higher temperatures also increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves. Heat waves last year killed people around the world, including Canada, Japan and the United States.
Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the pollen production of plants such as ambrosia, and allergy season in the United States is deteriorating every year,
This means that doctors, nurses and civil servants around the world will must anticipate and cope with new diseases and emerging dangers on their territory. These health risks will increase only when the average temperatures rise.
So while the medical profession is catching up with the current risks, it will also have to adapt to the future in a changed climate. This will require mitigation of the impact of medicine on the environment, but also the healing of the changes that we can not avoid. Solomon told Wax. "We all know that preventing something is a more effective approach than waiting for a complete illness. This also applies to this situation. "