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Most Physicians Worldwide Agree Climate Change Negatively Affects Patient Health

Oct 10, 2016 04:20 AM EDT
New survey revealed that many physicians worldwide believe that climate change is occuring and have negative effects in patient care.
(Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A new international survey involving members of the American Thoracic Society revealed most of the physicians around the world believe that climate change is real and has a direct negative impact to patient care.

The survey, published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, showed that 96 percent of the international members of the ATS believe that climate change is occurring. About 81 percent of those who believe in climate change also believe that the changing climate has a direct relevance to patient health. Additionally, 70 percent of the ATS members believe that climate change is driven by human activities.

"The response from international physicians underscores that of American respondents who noted the impact of illness severity related to increases in pollution, specifically asthma, COPD, pneumonia and cardiovascular disease," said John Balmes, MD, past Chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee and one of the authors of the study, in a statement.

For the study, researchers from the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University conducted a survey involving 5,103 international members of ATS representing 68 different countries. The survey has a response rate of 9.8 percent, or 489 members. Among the respondents, 25 percent are working in Asia, 25 percent in Europe, 18 percent South America, 18 percent in North America, 9 percent in New Zealand or Australia and 6 percent in Africa.

Among the most common health effects of climate change, 88 percent of the respondents noted that chronic disease severity from air pollution is the most common. Other health effects of climate change include increased allergic symptoms from exposure to plants and molds, which were observed by 72 percent of the respondents, followed by heart-related effects with 70 percent, injuries due to severe weather with 69 percent, vector-borne illness with 59 percent and diarrhea from food- and water-borne illnesses with 55 percent.

With these findings, researchers and members of ATS noted that physicians and physician organizations should play a major role in educating patients, the public, and policy makers on the human health effects of climate change.

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