AMA goes green with climate warming policy

November 25, 2016

The American Medical Association has made it a policy to promote sustainability and halt climate warming as a health issue. A doctor who works in the environmental health field called it a big leap forward but said how much difference it would make in working with patients remains to be seen.

“It sends a clear message to the medical community that climate change is a major concern,” said John Pearce, Medical University of South Carolina assistant professor of environmental health. “It voices the concern hoping to change the day-to-day, on-the-ground practice of medicine.”

The association announced the new policy last week following the election of Donald Trump, who has vowed to reverse pro-environmental regulations and initiatives advanced under the Obama administration. Pearce had no comment on the politics of the timing but said that climate warming is a “hot button” issue politically.

“The potential health benefits from moving beyond a fossil fuel-based economy may offer some of the greatest health opportunities in over a century,” Pearce said. “As such, it seems to me that ‘speaking up’ is a way of letting everyone know that climate change is a legitimate concern, that it needs to remain a central issue in public policy for the foreseeable future. That’s certainly my opinion, as ignoring this issue is an enormous public health gamble that I hope we don’t make.”

In announcing the policy, the AMA said it would support initiatives that promote environmental sustainability and efforts to halt global climate change, as well as help doctors in adopting environmentally sustainable programs in their practices and sharing the concepts with patients and communities.

“Scientific surveys have shown clear evidence that our patients are facing adverse health effects associated with climate change,” said Willarda V. Edwards, AMA board member.

“From heat-related injuries and forest fire air pollution, to worsening seasonal allergies and storm-related illness and injuries, it is important that we make every effort to put environmentally friendly practices in place to lessen the harmful impact that climate change is having on patient health across the globe,” she said.

The AMA has a history of weighing in on politically charged issues when its members see health concerns, including firearm safety and tobacco use.