Physicians must educate their patients on health risks from climate change

Climate change is admittedly a politicized issue, but one that is having real health consequences, according to a report by GreenBiz.

Physicians, the report noted, are in the best position to educate their patients about the public health risks, such as asthma and heat stroke. The report cited a 2014 joint study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication that found primary care physicians are the most trusted source for information on climate change issues related to health.

Physicians are also in a unique position to press for action on climate change, GreenBiz says. But while some physicians might be reluctant to take a political stance, most will want to talk to patients about health risks they may face as a result of climate change.

Climate change is having an impact on human health through extreme heat and weather events, the report says. It is exacerbating conditions such as asthma and allergies, especially when ozone levels or pollen counts are high. For instance, the ragweed pollen season in the upper Midwest has increased by almost three weeks, the report says.

Physicians can validate what patients are already experiencing, such as allergy seasons growing longer or summer heat waves becoming more severe, the report says. Both patients and physicians may become empowered to take action, GreenBiz says.

Polls of U.S. physicians found 70 percent have already seen negative health outcomes associated with climate change, such as worsening seasonal allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to a report from our sister publication FierceHealthcare. Health leaders have a long history of confronting powerful interests to address public health threats and must take a stand on climate change, one report suggested.

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