Study: Physicians Have a Unique Opportunity to Shape Climate Opinions
Health professionals have been aware of the public health impacts of climate change for some time now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention devoted their December 2014 Grand Rounds to the topic, the Lancet published a report about the risks of climate change last June, and the Surgeon General urged climate action at the White House Summit on Climate and Health last summer.
But despite the climate-related increases in asthma, respiratory illnesses, and vector-borne diseases that doctors are seeing, most Americans aren’t aware of the specific health risks of climate change. Physicians have a unique opportunity to raise their patients’ climate awareness. A new study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that, of all the sources for information about health and climate, primary care physicians are the most trusted. This was true regardless of the respondent’s climate opinions.
As this GreenBiz article points out, physicians can help validate what their patients are experiencing – longer allergy seasons, more extreme heat waves – and make the link between those effects and climate change. They can also help empower their patients to take action by offering ways to combat climate risks. And they can lead by example by promoting recycling, clean energy, and other climate-friendly behavior within their own organization. Check out our health initiative, Climate for Health, to learn more.
By David Wigder, contributor to GreenBiz
In today’s polarized society, Americans trust few sources for information on climate change. One trusted source is physicians.
In fact, according to a joint study (PDF) conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, primary care physicians are the most trusted source for information on climate change issues related to health.
Moreover, this trust is largely consistent across all consumer segments regardless of current beliefs and attitudes toward climate change. This puts physicians in a unique position in society today to influence such sentiments.
Climate change is already having an impact on human health through extreme heat and weather events. It is also exacerbating pre-existing conditions such as asthma and allergies. This is especially true on days when conditions such as high ozone levels or pollen counts make symptoms worse.
Image credit: Shutterstock / Hung Chung Chih