More than 70 physicians and nurses gathered in Richmond, Va., on Feb. 10 to learn about how climate change is affecting the health of their patients and communities.
The educational event, Health in a Changing Climate: Understanding the Impact on Virginians, was hosted by Health Care Without Harm, the Medical Society Consortium for Climate and Health, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, and Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action. Bon Secours’ St. Mary’s Hospital, rated one of the greenest hospitals in America, generously provided the venue and vegetarian meals.
Attendees learned about the health impacts of a changing climate, particularly as they affect their region. Expert speakers discussed topics such as increasing allergens, changing vector-borne disease patterns, and the urban-heat island effect. Participants learned how sea level rise threatens the safety and stability of the local community and contributes to dangerous storm surges.
Bon Secours physician Dr. Janet Eddy talked about her local work with vulnerable populations and how climate change is already negatively impacting their health. Many of her patients are outdoor workers who are increasingly suffering from heat-related illnesses. Health Care Without Harm board member Dr. Laura Anderko shared how children, because they are still in critical stages of development, are also especially at risk.
Clinicians were also informed about the many opportunities to contribute to climate solutions, both in their clinical practice and through advocacy. Cecilia DeLoach Lynn, Practice Greenhealth’s director of sector performance and recognition, provided examples of how hospitals across the country, including Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital, are implementing sustainability programs that are not only reducing the carbon footprint of hospital operations, but also fostering climate resilient communities. Dr. Samantha Ahdoot invited all attendees to join the Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action (VCCA), a group formed in 2017 to mobilize clinicians to educate and empower the public around local and state climate-related policies that impact public health.
In conversations after the event, both doctors and nurses reported the value of learning about how climate change impacts the health of their patients and how they can better protect their communities. Additionally, many attendees committed to educating their colleagues and patients or to joining VCCA or another one of the sponsoring organizations to advocate for healthier communities.
Health Care Without Harm wishes to thank Bon Secours Health System and Bon Secours St. Mary’s hospital for their generous support of this event and for their commitment to sustainable hospitals and communities.