This week, Moms Clean Air Force supported the launch of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, a group of 11 medical societies representing half of the nation’s doctors. The mission of the consortium is to raise awareness about the health impacts of climate change and the health benefits of reducing fossil fuel consumption.
The consortium’s first report, Health Alert!, shows how the health impacts of climate change differ by region. Wildfires are a major health threat in the west, for example, and mosquito- and tick-borne infections are a greater problem for the eastern states. But serious health threats are spread throughout the country, making this a health issue for all Americans. The consortium affirms that unless we take action, these health problems will get worse.
I spoke as a patient voice at the launch event, and had the opportunity to tell my story as well as explain why moms are so eager to have health professionals across the country as partners in the fight against climate change. Here is an excerpt from my comments:
As any parent of a school age child knows, asthma is a national epidemic. At my children’s elementary school in DC, the school nurse has two hanging shoe racks covering one wall, which she uses to organize inhalers and treatment plans for the many, many students with asthma. Each of those little shoe-sized compartments represents a child who sometimes needs medicine to be able to breathe.
Parents know that asthma is a complex disease that can have multiple causes and triggers. But we also want the full picture. If air pollution is one of the factors contributing to asthma, and climate change will exacerbate that air pollution, we want to know about it.
I remember visiting a doctor about 10 years ago for some respiratory problems. I was coughing, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I had had bronchitis, but I couldn’t seem to get better even after treatment. My doctor told me I needed an inhaler. Did I have asthma? He shrugged – he wasn’t sure, he said, but the inhaler would make me feel better. Why had I developed these problems? He shrugged – he wasn’t sure, but the inhaler would make me feel better.
The inhaler did give me relief, and it’s something I still use a couple times a year. But it took several months for me to realize that my symptoms flare up on high ozone days – something we have a lot of here in DC.
I wish my doctor had talked to me about the role of air pollution in my lung health, because as a patient, I want to know why. And as a parent, that becomes even more important to me. It’s not just that I want to know why, I actually need to know why, so I can take good care of my children.
Taking good care of my children means not only limiting screen time and making sure they wear a bike helmet – things that are relatively easy for me as an individual to take care of in my home. It also means demanding solutions to climate change from our lawmakers and policymakers, something that’s much harder to do, but just as important for my children’s health and future.
And just like our healthcare providers talk to us about screen time and bike helmets, we want them to talk to us about the risks of unabated fossil fuel consumption.
One of the things we’ve learned from our work with moms across the country, is that parents are hungry for information about how climate change and pollution impacts our families.
We want information about climate change (Tweet this), even if there’s no specific medical cure to this problem. When doctors share information about the health impacts of climate change, they are helping moms and dads everywhere become better parents.
WATCH the panel discussion here.
Map: Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health
TELL YOUR SENATOR: PROTECT OUR HEALTH FROM AIR AND CLIMATE POLLUTION