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'A True Public Health Emergency': 70+ Medical Groups Sound Alarm on Climate Crisis

Groups lay out action agenda to advance climate solutions and strengthen resiliency

Sign reads: We need better climate action now.

Over 70 health organizations declared the climate crisis "a true public health emergency" on Monday and laid out a blueprint for action for governments and civil society to support. (Photo: michael_swan/flickr/cc)

Scores of medical groups on Monday called the climate crisis "a health emergency" and laid out what they framed as a blueprint for the public and private sector to take swift action.

The agenda is signed by over 70 groups, including the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the National Association of Social Workers.

"Climate change is one of the greatest threats to health America has ever faced—it is a true public health emergency," the groups state. "The health, safety, and well-being of millions of people in the U.S. have already been harmed by human-caused climate change, and health risks in the future are dire without urgent action to fight climate change."

Referencing the impacts of climate-related events and air pollution that have already claimed lives, the groups "call on government, business and civil society leaders, elected officials, and candidates for office to recognize climate change as a health emergency and to work across government agencies and with communities and businesses to prioritize action on this Climate, Health, and Equity Policy Action Agenda."

In addition to averting thousands of deaths annually in the U.S., they note, a far-ranging approach to tackling the climate crisis will improve communities' well-being as well as that of the planet.

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But, they warn, "Without transformational action, climate change will be increasingly severe, leading to more illness, injury, and death; mass migration and violent conflict; and worsening health inequities. By mobilizing climate action for health and health action for climate, the U.S. can reduce climate pollution and build healthy communities that are resilient in the face of climate risks."

They outline for six priorities for "climate action for health":

  • A recommitment to the Paris climate accord;
  • A transition away from a fossil fuel economy to one based on renewables;
  • A push towards "active modes of transportation" like biking;
  • Boosting ecologically-stewarded food systems and forests;
  • Guaranteeing safe and affordable drinking water for all; and
  • Supporting a just transition for the workers and communities most impacted by the climate crisis.

They describe three more actions categorized as "health action for climate":

  • Make the health sector a vocal part of climate action;
  • "Incorporate climate solutions into all healthcare and public health systems";
  • Build resilient communities, especially those most adversely impacted by climate crisis.

An additional call, which urges boosting funds for climate and health, rounds out the groups' "roadmap to develop coordinated strategies for simultaneously tackling climate change, health, and equity."

Physicians for Social Responsibility, on Twitter, said, "It's time for government, business, and civil sector leaders to recognize the #ClimateHealthEmergency and advance bold solutions!"

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