A 10-day intensive curriculum on climate change and emergency medicine
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2020 tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record and July 2021 was the hottest month on record. The last decade was officially the warmest ever recorded. As global temperatures continue to rise, the life-threatening impacts of climate change will be an increasingly important reality for clinicians.
Climate change is a threat multiplier, making the most vulnerable and disadvantaged facets of society also the most threatened by the health impacts of our changing climate. While inland and coastal floods, wildfires, heat waves, and droughts may be the most obvious threats that come to mind, the ways in which climate change affects health are much more complex than they might initially appear. Starting in 2006, for instance, Syria went into an extreme multi-season drought. This set the foundation for the most severe set of crop failures experienced in the region. By 2011, an estimated 2-3 million people had significantly impacted livelihoods and over 1 million were forced into food insecurity. There was a large migration of rural communities into cities, which escalated urban unemployment and tipped an already tenuous social and economic balance into a multi-year civil war with more than 400,000 deaths. To be competent clinicians with the realities of climate change, it is important to understand a bit of the complexity in which climate change affects the health of individuals and populations in our local and global communities. Effective climate and health solutions are reliant on addressing structural factors and multiple determinants that contribute to poor health. As you will learn, many committed clinicians, health systems, and country leaders have already successfully implemented solutions that advance health and justice.
As emergency medicine clinicians, we are trusted leaders in society and are privileged to hear our patients’ stories. We witness adverse health impacts to patients and are at the unique intersection of research, education, and policy interventions.We have an immense opportunity to connect the dots on the climate crisis as a health emergency for others. We have a responsibility to anticipate and apply best evidence-based practices to caring for patients during times of increased demand or staff or supply chain disruptions. We also have an opportunity to step into leadership roles and aid our communities in rapidly mitigating and adapting to the harmful effects of climate change to optimize health and well-being not just for some, but for all.
The curriculum that follows was developed to give an in-depth set of tools for those interested in becoming climate-educated clinicians. Our first goal is to aid emergency medicine clinicians in understanding how their practice will be affected by climate change and how we can continue to adapt our clinical practice to provide high quality, timely patient care. Our second goal is to inspire and empower those who want to take their climate change skills to the next level by providing resources that will allow the application of knowledge to action within an emergency medicine and public health context. We hope you add a slide into your next presentation on climate change or choose a quality improvement project that addresses the environmental impact of health services that we provide. The material is not comprehensive but rather serves as a foundation to exploring the wealth of resources available across disciplines with the goal to advance global health equity for our communities, patients, and each other.
- To introduce emergency medicine clinicians to climate science pertinent to health
- To understand how climate change is affecting the health of patients in the U.S. and globally
- To elucidate the complexity of ways in which climate change can affect access to care, health service delivery, and demand for care
- To provide the foundational tools to improve healthcare resilience and sustainability strategies
- To provide the tools and resources for those interested in education and policy to empower and create lasting change
Climate Change and EM Team
- Lead Author: Caitlin Rublee, MD, MPH
- Secondary Authors: Catharina Giudice, MD; Katelyn Moretti, MD, MS; Kyle Martin, DO, MA, MPH; Andrew Musits, MD, MS
- Contributors: Joseph Leanza, MD; Christine Baek; Nikhil Ranadive, MD, MS
- Sponsor: Medical College of Wisconsin
- Curriculum design consultant: Simiao Li-Sauerwine, MD, MSCR with the ALiEM Education Research Lab and Incubator (ERLI)