ACP releases plan to help physicians combat climate change
WASHINGTON — ACP officials on Friday announced a “toolkit” aimed at helping internists and other physicians more effectively adapt to and advocate for policies combating climate change, noting that the healthcare sector is the second-highest energy consuming industry in the country, spending $9 billion annually.
In a press briefing ACP President Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, President-elect Nitin Damle, MD, and Ryan Crowley, ACP senior associate for health policy, cited increasing prevalence in a range of diseases as potential effects of climate change, and reasons why physicians should be taking action.
“Taking action on climate change creates a win-win situation, because it benefits public and individual health,” Riley said. “Higher rates of respiratory and heat illness, increased prevalence of diseases passed by insects and water-borne diseases, food and water insecurity and malnutrition, and behavioral health problems are the potential health effects of climate changes. The elderly, children, people with chronic diseases and the poor are especially vulnerable.”
According to Crowley, who led the effort in drafting the toolkit, the healthcare sector consumes a “massive amount of energy,” ranking second-highest in use behind the food industry. He called on physicians, “both individually and collectively,” to adopt lifestyle changes reducing the environmental impact, and increasing the sustainability, of their practices.
Friday’s announcement follows an ACP action plan published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in April, entitled “Climate Change and Health: A Policy Paper of the American College of Physicians. The paper outlined five recommendations for physicians and governments, including increased education and funding for climate change research, and called on the United States to take the lead on reducing greenhouse emissions.
Friday’s toolkit includes:
- An introduction to the ACP action plan published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, including a summary of the materials and resources to help physicians educate themselves about the evidence and current science regarding climate change and its effect on health;
- customizable slides for presentations to medical students, colleagues and hospital administrators on how climate change effects health, as well as mitigation and adaptation strategies, and how practices can become more environmentally sustainable;
- information on how to organize efforts to reduce the environmental impact of practices and hospitals;
- talking points regarding the effects of climate change on health, and the benefits of acting now rather than later;
- a multi-document resource explaining how the healthcare sector contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and what can be done to curb its impact; and
- a resource for patients developed by the ACP Center for Patient Partnership in Healthcare, aimed at helping patients better understand the health effects of climate change.
“ACP’s climate change toolkit is a resource that doctors and other healthcare professional can use to take action to engage in environmentally sustainable practices, reduce carbon emissions, educate their colleagues and community about the health risks posed by climate changes, and advocate for a low-carbon healthcare sector,” Crowley said.
In addition, ACP officials said they will be partnering in their efforts with the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Thoracic Society and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
According to Riley, increasing energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources could reduce the healthcare sector’s energy use by 30%, without compromising the medical quality.
“Climate change is not just an environmental, political or economic issue, it’s an individual and public health issue, and as the nation’s largest medical specialty society, it’s going to be our members who will have to take care of the bulk of patients who have some of the conditions that can result from climate change,” said Riley. “We also tend to look at this as a bit of preventive medicine for the world.” – by Jason Laday