Community News
AMA Report on Global Climate Change
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 5 page 17-17

The effects of global climate change may be widespread with potential for serious health implications, including extreme heat and cold events, flooding and droughts, increases in vectors carrying infectious diseases, and increases in air pollution.

That was the conclusion of a 2008 report by the AMA's Council on Science and Public Health (CSPH) adopted by the AMA House of Delegates, with support from the Section Council on Psychiatry, at the 2008 annual policymaking meeting of the house. (The Section Council on Psychiatry includes representatives from APA, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.)

The report relied on sentinel reports on climate, global climate change, and human health, including four Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports and reports from the World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The IPCC and other scientific researchers assert that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and is evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level," according to the report. "Many health effects attributable to changes in the global climate system have been noted. These health effects are based on specific predicted climate-related events, including the effects of heat waves, climate events related to changes in water levels (either extreme flooding or droughts), and increases in infectious and/or vector-borne diseases."

Based on recommendations of the council, the AMA

  • Supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic contributions are significant. These climate changes will create conditions that affect public health, with disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and the poor.

  • Supports educating the medical community on the potential adverse public health effects of global climate change and incorporating the health implications of climate change into the spectrum of medical education, including topics such as population displacement, heat waves and drought, flooding, infectious and vector-borne diseases, and potable water supplies.

  • Recognizes the importance of physician involvement in policymaking at the state national and global levels and supports efforts to search for novel, comprehensive approaches to mitigating climate change to protect public health; and recognizes that whatever the etiology of global climate change, policymakers should work to reduce human contributions to such changes.

  • Encourages physicians to assist in educating patients and the public on environmentally sustainable practices and to serve as role models for promoting environmental sustainability.

  • Encourages physicians to work with local and state health departments to strengthen the public health infrastructure to ensure that the global health effects of climate change can be anticipated and responded to more efficiently, and that the AMA's Center for Public Health Preparedness and Disaster Response assist in this effort.

  • Supports epidemiological translational clinical and basic science research necessary for evidence-based global climate change policy decisions related to health care and treatment.

  • "The AMA is very aware that global climate change may have an effect on illness and on treatment of illness in a variety of contexts that we do not fully understand," child psychiatrist Louis Kraus, M.D., who helped write the CSPH report, told Psychiatric News. "This is going to be an area of ongoing concern and one that psychiatry and medicine need to be a part of."

    A summary of the report is posted at <www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/443/csaph3i08-summary.pdf>.17_3.inline-graphic-1.gif

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