This morning at 7:30am, health professionals began to gather outside the Department for Health and Social Care with an 8 metre banner saying ‘Dear Dept for Health: Time for a Climate Public Health Campaign.’
They delivered a letter, published this morning in the British Medical Journal, written by 27 health groups, representing 10,000s of health professionals, and engaged politely with staff coming into work.
Professor Lord Ara Darzi, former Secretary of State for Health, co-director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation, and a supporter of the letter to Steve Barclay, said:
“There was a time when, for many working in healthcare, the climate crisis seemed far away. Now its impact is being seen in hospital and clinic waiting rooms every day, with worsening cardiovascular disease, increased spread of infectious disease, climate-induced migration and multiple effects on mental health, especially in young people. By making the issue of climate change clear through the lens of human health, we can achieve more for health and climate justice together than would be possible by working for either alone.”
Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, former president of the BMA, Royal Society of Medicine and Medical Women’s Federation, and a supporter of the letter to Steve Barclay, said:
“Human health is not distinct or separate from the ecosystems we are part of. We are dependent on our planet’s life support systems which provide us with clean air, fresh water, the ability to grow food and a stable climate. Our living planet has a fever and if it gets much higher, just like the human body, its systems start to break down. Understanding that there is no human health without planetary health is the critical first step to a stable and healthy society.’”
Professor Mike Wang, Chair of the Association of Clinical Psychologists, who signed the letter, said:
“Whilst billions are already suffering the impacts of climate collapse, research has shown that many people in the UK are experiencing high levels of distress through recognising the precariousness of our situation. But terms such as ‘climate anxiety’ and ‘eco-grief’ risk locating such feelings as being an individual problem, when collective distress is a normal response. Failure to recognise this has left many feeling powerless and isolated. A public health campaign would go some way to reduce the sense of isolation so many young people feel, and create a shared narrative, which could empower more urgent action on this emergency.”
Siobhan Parslow-Williams, co-ordinator of the Nursing Sustainability Network, who signed the letter, said:
“As a nurse it’s clear that a healthy planet equals healthy people. The climate crisis is a health crisis that must be addressed now. Nurses have a duty to promote the health of our patients and public but we can not do this in a polluted and unhealthy habitat. Health is connected to the health of our world. Without action we will see devastating public health events increase. We need action now to protect the lives of people now and future generations to come. All life on earth depends on the actions we take now.”
The crowd will be addressed at 11am by Dame Parveen Kumar, former president of the BMA and the Royal Society of Medicine, and Dr Fiona Godlee, former editor of the British Medical Journal.
To raise awareness of the increases in mosquito and tick borne viruses with climate change, one doctor wore a large mosquito outfit with a 2.5 metre wingspan, accompanied by 2 other health professionals wearing sandwich boards which said ‘Heat Increases Spread Diseases’ and ‘West Nile Virus, Dengue, Zika, Malaria, Lyme Disease, Chikungunya’.
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For more information see: www.planetaryhealthhub.co.uk
Protecting public health from the risks caused by the climate and ecological crises must be at the centre of government policy and action. British Medical Journal | April 21st 2023