Doctors are starting to incorporate climate change into their patient care

docs climate change
Posted at 10:11 AM, Dec 03, 2021

BOSTON. MASS. — In doctor’s offices and patient waiting rooms across the country, there are plenty of Americans dealing with COVID-19. But looking toward the future, it is climate change many doctors are now worried about.

Dr. Caleb Dresser is a climate and human health fellow working with the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And now, for the first time in his career, he's starting to incorporate climate change into his patient care.

"Climate change is a health emergency. This is affecting people in dramatic ways in a lot of different places," Dr. Dresser said.

Dr. Dresser is part of a push by the American Medical Association to teach medical students about the health risks tied to a warming planet—a push that is beginning as early as residency training.

"This is affecting all of us and the health of the people we care," he said.

For the first time in his career, Dr. Dresser, who works in Boston, was treating people for heatstroke in October. Across the country, rising sea levels and droughts are increasing the number of ticks and mosquitos carrying diseases.

"The hazards people are experiencing—extreme heat, flooding, diseases—these are health threats we need to make sure people survive and have ways of coping with," Dr. Dresser added.

To help patients deal with health issues related to climate change, Dr. Dresser often makes sure they are prepared. When someone leaves the emergency room, he often talks to them about the environment they’re going back into.

"I spend a lot of time with patients in the emergency department when I’m discharging them and say, ‘Hey, it’s 95 degrees outside. I see you’re going back to a part of the city that is hot. What’s your plan?'"