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Climate change has significant impacts on health outcomes, and health professionals are uniquely positioned to leverage their voice as trusted messengers to engage their colleagues, patients, and communities to take action and shift the public conversation on climate and health.
Discussing the health impacts of climate change is a critical approach for furthering medicine’s mission—to improve health and accelerate equity. Health professionals are increasingly learning how climate change is harming their patients’ health. And, unsurprisingly, most respondents to a 2020 multinational survey felt a responsibility to educate the public and policy makers. In most nations “left” or “right” political ideology is a weak predictor of support for climate taxes or laws. Health professionals can contribute to collective action by reflecting and building on the existing consensus on climate change.
Health professionals are the most trusted voices in society and our collective voices are needed to prepare communities to effectively respond to the climate crisis. This 5-session series of videos discuss strategies for health professionals to effectively channel their voice and action to address the climate crisis. Videos include: “Find your story,” “Find and connect with your audience,” “Find your election,” “Find your climate community,” and “Find your power.”
Climate change increases the incidence of practically all forms of human disease. This series of lectures features field leaders in various aspects of climate change and human health, focusing on how different types of extreme weather events and patterns cause both acute, and chronic, morbidities and mortality. Scientists, clinicians and public health policy experts to generate an integrated and comprehensive picture of health threats posed by climate change.
58% of adults believe climate change is already impacting the health of Americans and nearly half (48%) agree that it’s impacting the mental health of Americans. Half of adults (51%) are anxious about climate change’s impact on future generations.
- Adults are more were worried about the impact of climate change on the planet (55%) than on their mental health (39%). They were split on how news about climate change affected their mood, with 42% saying it affected them some or a lot, and 43% not much or not at all.
- Young people were more anxious about climate change. Of those aged 18-34, 66% were anxious about its effect on the planet, 51% were worried about its impact on their mental health, and 59% worried about its impact on future generations. They were also more likely to believe it was already having an effect on the health (64%) and mental health (57%) of Americans.
- White people were the least likely to report anxiety over the impact of climate change on the planet (52%) versus Hispanics (62%), Black people (65%) or people of other ethnicities (66%). Those in the northeast (57%) and western region (58%) of the country reported being more worried about the effect of climate change on the planet than those in the Midwest (50%) and the South (54%).
Poll: Climate change is taking a toll on Gen Z mental health while also inspiring youth to take action
A significant majority of Gen Z youth (75% nationwide, 80% in California) have experienced a mental health-related issue, such as anxiety, stress, and/or feelings of being overwhelmed as a result of reading, seeing, or hearing news about climate change.
- Despite these mental health challenges, four out of five youths (81% nationwide, 86% in California) say they have personally taken action to respond to climate change.
- Young people are stepping up to make a difference by relying less on plastic products (54% nationwide, 64% in California), reducing use of electricity (45% nationwide, 52% in California), and working to conserve water (38% nationwide, 53% in California).
- A vast majority of respondents (81% nationwide, 84% in California) agree that global leaders are not doing enough to combat climate change.
- Three quarters of youth (74% nationwide, 74% in California) say they agree that companies in the U.S. bear some responsibility to help people combat the impacts of climate change on their mental health.
- A majority (85% nationwide, 86% in California) believe it is important to support brands/companies that are sustainable and/or environmentally friendly.
Advocacy messages about climate and health are more effective when they include information about risks, solutions, and a normative appeal: Evidence from a conjoint experiment
A good formula for leveraging health messaging for climate advocacy: Tell people about the health consequences of climate change, health benefits of climate solutions, and include a call-to-action. This experiment found that each of these categories was worth including in a message to help motivate Americans to contact Congress. Within each of these categories, a variety of specific types of information were tested, with the most effective overall combination being a message that first described the negative impacts of climate change on air quality, then explained how transitioning to clean energy will benefit people’s health, and ended by explaining that most Americans support this solution, and many are taking action to advocate for it.
To accelerate investments at the intersection of climate change, health, and equity, an online toolkit was developed that aims to help funders gain a sense of the complex and large landscape of issues and actors working at the intersection of these issues. The toolkit provides an overview and landscape of the issues, highlighting themes, profiles of foundations, nonprofits, and hubs of collaboration; and a library of resources made up of case studies, data, and practitioner guides.
Although climate change is often portrayed as a polarizing issue, it is a significant concern for Americans, according to a Research!America survey. Well over half of those surveyed said that climate change is already harming their own health, and similar numbers believe climate change is harming the health of others in their household, of Americans in general, and of people around the world. Two-thirds believe climate change will harm their own health “a great deal” or “a moderate amount” in the next 10 years, and only 14% said they believed climate change would not harm their health or the health of their household at all in the next 10 years.
Medical professionals largely understand that climate change is happening and is caused by humans, view climate change as an important and growing cause of health harm in their country, and feel a responsibility to educate the public and policymakers about the problem. Despite their high levels of commitment to engaging in education and advocacy on the issue, many survey participants indicated that a range of personal, professional, and societal barriers impede them from doing so, with time constraints being the most widely reported barrier. However, participants say various resources—continuing professional education, communication training, patient education materials, policy statements, action alerts, and guidance on how to make health-care workplaces sustainable—can help to address those barriers.
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