"Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century ... the impacts will be felt all around the world — and not just in some distant future but in our lifetimes and those of our children." — The Lancet, 2009
The Climate and Health Literacy Consortium is a collaboration of the leading organizations around the country working to educate the public about the health effects of climate change. This Consortium is committed to a concerted effort within the health care sector to educate health care professionals about the relationship between climate change and human health, thus leading to a deeper understanding of how climate change policy and consumption choices influence the health of our communities.
Climate change is not just about changes in the ecology of our planet. It is about the human health impacts that result from those changes in our natural environment. In November 2009, The Lancet and the University College London, UK released a report about the health impacts of climate change in future decades along with some solutions that can be implemented in the short and medium terms to mitigate the health impacts. It examined the most serious direct and indirect consequences of climate change including "changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climate events, and population migration." The article emphasizes that "the health sector can play a key role in helping societies adapt to the effects of climate change and the risk it poses to human health."
Clinicians will be on the front lines of all climate-related health impacts, whether those result from catastrophic disasters such as floods, heat waves or other temperature extremes, or indirect effects like increases in emergency room visits over time due to decreasing air quality. Overall, the need to treat illness and disease due to climate-related changes in our environment will continue to increase as climate change accelerates. At the same time, the healthcare industry will experience the climate crisis in its own operations, characterized by increasing energy costs, projected instability in the electric service provision grid, and intensified stressors placed on community health services, especially in times of disaster.
It is crucial that the health care sector develop a strong, unified voice to reduce both the environmental and public health impacts of climate change. The clinical community can mobilize around the issue of climate change by fully understanding the science, preparing for the environmental and health impacts that we are already experiencing around the globe and working within the health care sector to change wasteful management practices. These steps will integrate the health care sector as a major contributor to a multi-faceted climate change solution.
- Health Care Without Harm
- Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American Nurses Association
- American Medical Association
- American Public Health Association
- Environmental Protection Agency
- George Washington School of Public Health
- Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- The Climate Project
- University of Maryland School of Nursing
- Health Sciences Online
- Practice Greenhealth
- NIEHS – National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health