Doctors and climate change awareness

If it’s true that an apple a day might keep the doctor away (and believe it or not, the jury is still out on Vitamin C and the common cold), could a majority of thoracic physicians help their patients improve their health by combatting climate change?

MJEAL CoverIn my article in the Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law published last April, I made the case for the growing awareness of health care professionals about climate change and its potential impact on human health by increasing patient/citizen awareness about the links between the environment and illness.  This recent report of a survey of members of the American Thoracic Society supports my argument.

It found that a majority of physicians surveyed said they were already seeing health effects in their patients that they believe are linked to climate change.


  • 89% believe that climate change is happening.
  • 65% think that climate change is relevant to direct patient care.
  • 44% perceive that climate change is already affecting the health of their patients a “great deal” or a “moderate amount.”
  • 77% have seen an increase in chronic diseases related to air pollution.
  • 58% have seen increased allergic reactions from plants or mold.
  • 57% have seen injuries related to severe weather.

Dr. Mona Sarfaty, director of the program on climate and health at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University and lead author of the paper analyzing these survey results, sums up the potential impact of doctors concerned about climate change on public opinion: “Not too many people personally know a climate scientist, but they do know physicians, and physicians are well thought of.”

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