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ACP Unveils Toolkit to Help Doctors Combat Climate Change

Doctors can advocate with their health systems, hospitals, and own practices to institute steps to reduce carbon emissions

Washington, May 6, 2016 -- The American College of Physicians (ACP) today during Internal Medicine Meeting 2016 unveiled a toolkit to help internists and other doctors advocate for effective climate change adaptation and mitigation policies. In a position paper on climate change and health, published by Annals of Internal Medicine on April 19, ACP warned that climate change will have devastating consequences for public and individual health unless aggressive, global action is taken now to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“Taking action on climate change creates a ‘win-win’ situation because it benefits public and individual health,” said ACP President Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP. “ACP’s climate change toolkit is a resource for doctors and other health care professionals to use to engage in environmentally sustainable practices that reduce carbon emissions, educate their colleagues and community about the health risks posed by climate change, and advocate for a low-greenhouse gas emission health care sector.”

ACP cites higher rates of respiratory and heat-related illnesses, increased prevalence of diseases passed by insects, water-borne diseases, food and water insecurity and malnutrition, and behavioral health problems as potential health effects of climate change. The elderly, children, people with chronic illnesses, and the poor are especially vulnerable.

The toolkit for doctors to combat climate change includes:

  • An introduction to the Action Plan that briefly explains why this initiative is necessary and summarizes the materials and resources to help members become familiar with the evidence and science about the reality of climate change and its effect on health.
  • Customizable slides for presentations to medical students, colleagues, and hospital administrators. The presentation explains how climate change affects health, mitigation and adaptation strategies, and how the health care sector can become more environmentally sustainable.
  • Information about how to facilitate, organize, and lead efforts to reduce the impact of physician offices, hospitals, and other health care facilities on climate change.
  • Talking points about how climate change impacts health and the benefits to public and individual health by taking action now. By objectively informing their communities about the human health threat posed by climate change, physicians can help depoliticize the issue and encourage cooperation to tackle climate change.
  • “Greening the Health Care Sector” is a multi-document resource that  explains how the health care sector contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and what can be done to curb impact. From how small practices can “go green” to mitigation focus areas like energy efficiency, transportation, and building structures, each document includes a "case study" and additional resources on the topic.
  • A Patient FACTS piece on climate change developed by ACP's Center for Patient Partnership in Healthcare. Part of ACP’s patient-tested educational series designed to help patients increase their understanding of health issues, Patient FACTS also list relevant questions that patients can ask to facilitate communication with their doctor.

“The health care sector consumes a massive amount of energy, ranking second-highest in energy use after the food industry, spending about $9 billion annually on energy costs,” Dr. Riley said. “ACP encourages physicians, both individually and collectively, to adopt lifestyle changes that reduce environmental impact and to increase the environmental sustainability of their practice and the broader health system in which they work.”

By increasing energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources, the EPA estimates that 30 percent of the health care sector’s energy use could be reduced without compromising care quality.

Internists and other doctors can access the toolkit at www.acponline.org/climate-change-toolkit.

About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 143,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.