Climate change inaction will 'lead to more illnesses and death' warn 70+ health groups

Health Care Without Harm has joined more than 70 national health and medical groups to release The Call to Action on Climate, Health, and Equity to protect the health and safety of all people in the United States, following a surge in the number and intensity of climate change-related health harms, from exposure to extreme weather and heat waves to worsening air pollution and increases in insect-borne diseases.

The call to action urges our nation’s government, business, and health care leaders to heed the call of health professionals and organizations and immediately take action to limit climate disruption and build climate resilience. The call to action was released during a press conference featuring health and medical experts.

“I urge my fellow health care leaders to embrace their ethical imperative to improve the health and well being of our communities and join me and thousands of others in protecting the nation’s health and health care delivery from the impacts of climate change,” said Jeff Thompson, MD, Gundersen Health System CEO emeritus. “At the same time, the health care sector calls for business leaders, educators and  policymakers to work with us to advance solutions. Together we have tremendous potential to create a health system that truly heals and healthy, vibrant communities where every child can breathe clean air and has the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong.”

The action agenda outlines 10 policy recommendations that provide a roadmap for government and health care leaders as they develop comprehensive and coordinated strategies for tackling climate change to improve health:

  1. Meet and strengthen greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments and support the Paris Agreement.
  2. Transition rapidly away from the use of coal, oil, and natural gas to clean, safe, and renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  3. Transition to zero-carbon transportation systems with an emphasis on active transportation.
  4. Build local, healthy, and sustainable food systems, forests, and natural lands.
  5. Ensure all U.S. residents have access to safe drinking water and a sustainable water supply.
  6. Invest in policies that support a just transition for workers and communities adversely impacted by climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
  7. Engage the health sector voice in the call for climate action.
  8. Incorporate climate solutions into all health care and public health systems.
  9. Build resilient communities in the face of climate change.
  10. Allocate resources to enable the health sector to effectively protect health in the face of climate change.

This is a crucial moment. Without transformational action, climate change will be increasingly severe, leading to more illness and death. The 10 recommendations outlined in the call to action are urgent and essential steps to protect and promote the health of all people. The policies that move us toward a safer climate also have rapid, significant, and demonstrable health benefits. Shifting to renewable energy, sustainable food production and diets, active transportation, and green cities will decrease climate pollution while simultaneously reducing the incidence of communicable and non-communicable diseases, improving mental health, and bringing significant health care cost savings.

You can help ensure policymakers, health care leaders, and community members throughout the U.S. understand the health impacts of climate change and the urgency of implementing these solutions. Use these talking points to write an op-ed or letter to the editor, to encourage your hospital leadership to set ambitious climate goals, or to communicate with you local, state, and congressional representatives.