by Emma Frantz
While the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates increasingly highlight climate change solutions in their platforms, and President Trump attempts to roll back existing climate and energy policies, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA) is standing with medical and public health professionals to call climate change what it really is: a health emergency.
As part of Clean Air Carolina, MAHA has worked extensively to advocate for strong, clean air policies and to educate doctors, nurses, and other health professionals about the health risks of climate change and related air pollution issues. That’s why MAHA is proud to join over 70 medical and public health groups from across the country in endorsing The Call to Action on Climate, Health and Equity: A Policy Action Agenda.
The agenda’s underlying principle is that acting to mitigate climate change will dramatically improve public health, but if we fail to act we risk the health, safety, and wellbeing of millions of Americans. It prioritizes a series of actions, including: the United State’s re-commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement; a rapid transition away from the use of coal, oil, and natural gas to clean, safe and renewable energy; investments in active transportation and sustainable agriculture; and incorporation of climate solutions into all health care and public health systems. These strategies aim to reduce climate pollution, which will improve air quality and mental health, reduce both communicable and non-communicable diseases, and decrease healthcare costs.
MAHA is already working on some of the agenda’s action items, including “engaging the health sector voice in the call for climate action.” We’re working with both local and national health sector leaders to develop and implement campaigns that inform the public about health impacts as a result of climate change. According to a recent Gallup poll, nurses and doctors are the two most trusted professions in the U.S., making them ideal messengers for climate health. Medical groups that have backed the agenda include the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association.
As the Earth’s temperature rises, so does the threat of extreme weather and poor air quality. Public health risks will only continue to grow if we don’t take action now. It is time for medical professionals and environmental experts to bring climate solutions and health solutions together, and address what the World Health Organization calls “the greatest health challenge of the 21st century.”
Top image provided by Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health.