Acknowledging Climate Change in Healthcare
Climate change has been the subject of conversation for decades now, with some influential figures even debating whether it’s a matter of concern or not. However, as climate conditions have been getting more serious, the conversation surrounding climate change has shifted from environmental threats, to public health threats. Studies have shown that shifting the conversation from the issues of melting glaciers and rising sea levels to more imminent effects like increased weather temperatures harming health, has brought about more public awareness .
Climate change will bring about serious health impacts in the near future. For instance, one study predicts that food shortages will be responsible for approximately 500,000 additional deaths by the year 2050 . Further, climate change will create a rapid increase in the spread of diseases such as Ebola, malaria, cholera, Lyme disease, diabetes, respiratory issues, and stroke [2, 3]. The effects of climate change on health will also disproportionately affect different groups of people. Groups most vulnerable include children, pregnant women, low-income communities, and underdeveloped countries with limited healthcare infrastructure.
Climate change can even affect mental health, as one study shows that warming temperatures may “produce approximately 2 million additional individuals reporting mental health difficulties” . Another study predicts approximately 14,000 suicides by 2050 that will be connected to the changes in climate. Those leading the study believe that “economic factors or biological changes” that have to do with changes will be the reason behind the deaths .
With an environmental issue like global warming affecting medical practice, healthcare professionals are, as a result, involved in dealing with the consequences. Various organizations, like the American Medical Association, have made significant efforts to bring climate change into the conversation of healthcare. However, a study published in 2018 showed that most medical school curricula do not incorporate classes on climate change, which means that new physicians are entering the field unequipped to deal with health issues resulting from climate change in the near future . As climate change quickly worsens, immediate action needs to be taken in order to ensure future medical practitioners are able to deal with the oncoming consequences of climate change on health.
Courtney Subramanian, “Rebranding Climate Change as a Public Health Issue,” TIME, August 8, 2013.
Renee Cho, “How Climate Change Is Exacerbating the Spread of Disease,” Earth Institute Columbia, September 4, 2014.
Arman Azad, “How climate change will affect your health,” CNN, October 12, 2018.
Anna Goshua, “Medical schools must prepare students to work in a world altered by climate change,” STATNews, March 19, 2019.
Wellbery C, “It's Time for Medical Schools to Introduce Climate Change Into Their Curricula,” NCBI, December 2018.