To the editor:
I care about health, so when leading medical personnel across the U.S. spoke out at the “White House Summit on Climate Change and Public Health” last Tuesday (June 23), I sat up and took notice.
As one doctor said, the old-fashioned role of the doctor treating patients one on one is not enough when a whole community needs treatment because of poor air quality, which causes asthma, allergies and other respiratory diseases to increase at an alarming rate. “I can give a child an inhalant, but that doesn’t solve the problem.” Clean air and a stable climate are needed.
The doctors agreed with Pope Francis that the most vulnerable – the poor, the young, the elderly, the physically fragile – suffer most from heat and pollutants in the air. And these vulnerable are least able to do anything to help themselves. Only good government, designed to solve community problems, can do this.
Panel participants said that climate change is the biggest public health challenge of our time. They concluded that it is time to get beyond general discussion and take action with concrete plans and steps to mitigate the damage we have done to our planet, and take positive steps for our children’s future.
Polluted air and extreme heat are having negative impacts on the health of humans on this planet. Surely good health is a goal we all can agree on. Will we act before it is too late to save the thousands of lives that will be lost in the next decade — in the U.S. alone — if we do nothing?