GPs ’should offer climate change advice to patients’

Telegraph
29.11.2009
Nick Britten

Doctors should give patients advice on climate change, a leading body of medical experts has claimed.

The Climate and Health Council, a collaboration of worldwide health organisations including the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society of Medicine, believes there is a direct link between climate change and better health.

Their controversial plan would see GPs and nurses give out advice to their patients on how to lower their carbon footprint.

The Council believes that climate change “threatens to radically undermine the health of all peoples”.

It believes health professionals are ideally placed to promote change because “we have ethical responsibility…..as well as the capacity to influence people and our political representatives to take the necessary action”.

The Council has been recently formed to study the health benefits of tackling climate change and promotes a range of ideas from reducing your carbon footprint by driving less and walking more to eating local, less processed food.

They believe that offering patients advice on how to lower their carbon footprint can be just as easy and achievable as helping them to stop smoking or eat a healthier diet.

Other proposals include for all developed nations to pay an extra five dollars a barrel on oil and a tax on airline tickets. This would go into a special fund to develop low-carbon alternatives to existing technologies, they say.

Prof Mike Gill, from the University of Surrey, who co-chairs the Climate and Health Council, outlined the plans for the medical journal The Lancet last week.

He said: “Climate change already affects human health, creating problems that will increase if no action is taken.

“Overall, what is good for tackling climate change is good for health. Who better to spell out this message than health professionals? “We have the evidence, a good story to tell that dramatically shifts the lens through which climate change is perceived, and we have public trust.”

He said the health service was often “muted” on the subject of climate change and needed to make its voice heard more.

He added: “To maximise our influence, we must be much clearer than we have been to the public, to patients, and to politicians about the risks of doing nothing and the benefits to individual and global health of effective action.”

Andy Burnham, the Health minister, in support of the Lancet report said: “Climate change can seem a distant, impersonal threat [however] the associated costs to health are a very real and present danger. Health ministers across the globe must act now to highlight the risk global warning poses to the health of our communities.”

Full article

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