Doctors Prescribe… Nothing

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402px-Surgeon_operating%2C_Fitzsimons_Army_Medical_Center%2C_circa_1990.jpgThe patient is ill. It’s contagious. It’s sweeping the globe. And the doctors prescribe… two pills of ignorance and a shot of whining.

How’s this? Well, a new survey reports that most health department directors believe their jurisdictions will face serious public health problems from climate change in the next 20 years. Yet few have done anything to detect, prevent, or adapt to the threats.

This, even though the majority of these directors believe that heat waves, heat-related illnesses, reduced air quality, reduced water quality, and reduced water quantity are likely to become common or severe problems in a warming climate.

Several factors contribute to the slackerism. Most survey respondents felt hamstrung by a lack of knowledge about climate change. Most felt little help was available from state and federal slackers. Most felt they needed more funding, staff, and training.

In other words, most are hoping someone else will take care of it.

“The reason why so many Americans view climate change as a threat to other species rather than as a threat to people may be in part because health professionals have been largely silent on the issue,” says Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication. “By using the opportunities available to them, public health and health care professionals can educate people on the threats of climate change to their health and wellbeing.”

That would require the docs to get off the antidepressants and get, well, seriously worried.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones’ environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

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