2nd Annual Conference: Good Climate Policy Starts with Health

At the recent Good Climate Policy Starts with Health Conference, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health welcomed 128 doctors and other health professionals to take action against climate change. These participants, representing 23 member medical societies and 32 affiliated health associations convened to promote a health policy action agenda for addressing today’s climate emergency. The first day of the meeting, which was held in Arlington, VA on April 28, focused on planning for action. The second on April 29 was scheduled in collaboration with the American Lung Association to visit Congress where constituents asked their Senators and Representatives to speak publicly about health as a reason to address the climate crisis.

The meeting highlighted many activities. Participants reported their progress on State based groups priorities, health education programs, and community climate programs focused on equity. Policy presentations focused on solutions needed to address the climate crisis, including with energy efficient buildings, changes in energy use, carbon pricing, and addressing the worsening problem of air pollution from particulates and ozone in many cities.

The meeting opened with a welcome from Edward Maibach, Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. He presented new data documenting a shift in American public opinion toward greater concern about the personal importance of climate change. Dr. Mona Sarfaty, Executive Director of the Consortium, announced the goals for the meeting: expanding cohesion in the network of physicians and health professionals working to end the climate crisis, and developing a plan to promote the new policy agenda on climate, health and equity.

The morning sessions highlighted recent reports on the health impacts of climate change. Lyndsay Alexander, Director of the Healthy Air Program at the American Lung Association presented the 2019 State of the Air Report. Dr. John Balbus presented the 2018 National Climate Assessment, Dr. Renee Salas the 2018 Lancet Countdown U.S. Briefand Dr. Jonathan Patz the IPCC Report.

Dr. Sarfaty gave a brief overview of the activities of the Consortium during 2018, describing it as a year of growth, increased action, and greater visibility. The Consortium will continue its core strategies of organizing, empowering, and amplifying medical voices to affect action on the climate emergency.

Three Consortium member societies described their major accomplishments of the last year. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology focused its entire 2018 annual meeting on environmental health; The American Academy of Family Physicians founded a new member interest group with 87 members, created two new web pages, and passed 2 new policy resolutions; and the Climate Psychiatry Allianceheld 13 sessions on climate and health at the annual psychiatry meeting, and now publishes a monthly column on climate change and mental health in their newsletter.

Breakout workshops focused on Medical Practice Issues, Community Health and Equity, and Climate Health Education.

The final session invited discussion on developing a strategy to pursue The US Call to Action on Climate, Health and Equity: Policy Action Agenda (Action Agenda) developed by Dr. Linda Rudolph and others over several years. The session opened with a video message from Dr. Fiona Armstrong, Founder and Director of the Climate and Health Alliance of Australia that is promoting its own action agenda. Dr. Rudolph spoke about the importance of accelerating work on the Action Agenda and presented a rap song with her lyrics that was recorded by a California artist to music written by Nipsey Hustle. The rap song is not yet available for general distribution.

On the second day of the conference, 69 meeting participants from 25 states made 103 visits to their congressional representatives and senators. They asked their representatives to speak publicly about the health impacts of climate change.

Conference sponsors included Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens, the American Lung Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the American Public Health Association (APHA), ecoAmerica Climate for Health, and 8 collaborating organizational conveners.

Climate & Health Advocates at the Consortium Conference