Doctors should take lead in push to curb climate change: experts

Kyle Plantz
Feb 28, 2015
A man walks over a bridge as smoke rises from chimneys of a thermal power plant in Shanghai February 23, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Doctors should take the lead in supporting political efforts to cut the pace of climate change and encouraging more people to see the problem as a crucial issue for public health, experts say.
With the 68th World Health Assembly coming up in May in Geneva, countries are poised to adopt the world's first resolution on air pollution and health, in an effort to reduce premature deaths linked to air pollution.
Studies have found that air pollution can worsen a variety of health problems, from heart disease to strokes, said Carlos Dora, coordinator of public health and the environment at the World Health Organization (WHO).
That suggests doctors should take action to try to curb air pollution and climate change, he said.
"Climate change is a big factor (in determining peoples') health in the short term and doctors should take notice," he said.
In particular, “there are a number of challenges to the capacities of current health systems to respond to these health issues, so doctors should be prepared”, he said.
For a growing number of doctors, "health and climate change are no longer seen as different issues and are almost seen as synonymous because there is more evidence and data out there that link the two," he said.
A survey of members of the American Thoracic Society, which represents 15,000 physicians and other medical professionals who work on respiratory disease and related issues, found that the majority were already seeing health effects in patients that they believe are linked to climate change.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they have seen an increase in chronic diseases in patients that are linked to air pollution, and 65 percent said they believed climate change was directly relevant to patient care, according to the survey, conducted by the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University and published in the February edition of the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
“There is more pressure for the health sectors to prepare themselves on how they can help the population in dealing with the diseases related to air pollution,” Dora said.