A unique, nurse-led initiative

Our focus is on awareness, community engagement and advocacy - enabling health care professionals to advocate on behalf of the world’s people in addressing the health consequences of climate change.

About Our Center

Our Center’s steering committee includes nurse scholars who, spurred by their passion, practice and research knowledge, created the Center to tackle these issues head on. Efforts address mitigation, adaptation, and resilience through education, practice, research, and service related to the health effects of climate change.

 

 

Spurred by passion, practice and research

Climate Justice 

We are committed to embracing the concept of climate justice in engaging nurses in climate change initiatives. Those who contribute the least to climate change are the most vulnerable to its impact. 

Health of Individuals, Families, Communities, and Populations 

Climate change is a threat to the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations worldwide. The nursing profession’s efforts related to climate change will address mitigation, adaptation, and resilience in education, practice, and service related to the health effects of climate change.

Advocacy

We are committed to enabling health care professionals to advocate on behalf of the world’s people in addressing the health consequences of climate change.

Safe Drinking Water and Sufficient Healthful Food for All 

We are committed to engaging in efforts to address access to safe drinking water and sufficient healthful food for all, and the negative effects of climate change in reducing availability of safe water and healthful food.

Safe, Clean Environments That Support All Ecosystems 

We are committed to addressing the need for safe, clean environments that support all ecosystems to address planetary health as a key element of the health of the world’s people.

 

We envision a world where nurses and other health professionals lead in efforts to reduce climate change-related health consequences locally, nationally, and globally for people—particularly those most vulnerable—and ecosystems.

As health professionals we play a critical role in climate change prevention and preparedness. 

Prevention

We have a unique opportunity to provide communities with education and counseling, not only regarding treatment, but also the prevention of disease and illness. 

Advocacy

We have the ability to help shape international government policy by advocating for environmental sustainability.

Public Education

We can provide patients with knowledge of planetary health strategies that can lead to a widespread adoption of change. 

Research and Scholarship

We're furthering the understanding of effects of climate change on health of populations worldwide. 

View Health Professional Core Competencies

We are policy makers, scientists, teachers, and environmentalists, as well as clinicians. 

The MGH Institute of Health Professions Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Health engages in education, scholarship, clinical practice, community engagement, and policy/advocacy efforts to lead nurses and other health professionals in addressing the health consequences of climate change. We integrate the concepts of climate justice;  social determinants of health; and the intersections among climate change, climate justice, and systemic racism and their impact on health in all aspects of our work in education, clinical practice, scholarship/research, and policy/advocacy.

The MGH Institute of Health Professions Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Health is committed to the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). Consistent with the Institute’s overarching vision, mission, values, and commitment to these inclusive principles, the Center engages in a commitment to address the intersection of the social determinants of health in our climate-changing world.

Moreover, we acknowledge systemic racism as a social determinant of health and actively seek to understand how racism is embedded in our institutions of health, education, and housing. We acknowledge that racism disproportionately impacts certain communities in their experience of health and well-being generally, and climate-related health specifically. We stand with underrepresented groups and vulnerable populations who experience deleterious health consequences of climate change, and commit to addressing these injustices. We also recognize that those who are disproportionately affected by health consequences of climate change are those who least contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Events about the Environment, Climate, and Health

A woman having a virtual meeting on her laptop

Climate Conversations

Engage in monthly webinars co-hosted by the MGH Center for the Environment and Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and MGH Institute of Health Professions Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Health.

Join

A Call to Learn, Lead, and Care - Together

I recently listened to a webinar hosted by the American Lung Association titled “State of the Air 2019.” I wasn’t surprised to hear that “climate change is fueling wildfires and weather patterns that are making air quality worse.” From the report:

"Our 20th annual national 'report card' on outdoor air quality finds that more than four in 10 Americans live with unhealthy air, putting them at risk for serious health effects like lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage and premature death. This year’s report spotlights the increasing role that the changing climate plays in worsening air quality across the nation, placing health and lives at risk. The “State of the Air” 2019 finds that eight cities suffered their most polluted air ever recorded and sounds the alarm for telling Congress and the Trump administration that we all must do more to fight climate change."

Four in 10. That’s how many of us are at risk for early death, simply by breathing. Not to mention the millions of school and work days missed due to asthma-related illness. This is serious stuff!

What Can Health Care Workers Do? Apply the Learn One - Do One - Teach One Model
• Learn about the health impacts of climate change and what you can do. The opportunities for this are truly awesome and there are some really great resources out there. I’ve shared a few below, but please don’t stop there. If you find something great, please share it with us!
• Do it! Implement one or more clean energy and living solutions into your personal and/or professional life. It doesn’t have to be complicated. 
• Teach it to (or just Talk About It with) your friends, family, patients, and neighbors, sharing what you’ve learned and how it is working in your life. Listen to them, connect by expressing values that you share (keeping our babies healthy, swimming at the local watering hole, sitting around a campfire, neighborhood BBQs, spending time with loved ones, being overwhelmed by the chaotic pace of the world right now), then match it to climate change.

Opportunities to Learn, Do, and Teach:
• Listen to the webinar: Air Quality, Asthma, and the EPA Air Quality Flag Program: Nurses Addressing Children's Health.
The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments discusses how climate changes health.
The American Lung Association is full of great information and opportunities to learn about air quality and its effect on lung health.
• American Public Health Association
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• World Health Organization

Climate change is an emerging challenge linked to negative health  sequelae (chronic conditions). These complications are a result of environmental degradation – deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems and habitats; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution.

Climate change occurs due to an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, black carbon, and other pollutants – greenhouse gases. 

Since the 1960s, there has been a growing recognition of the need to address climate change and the impact of greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) implicated in the warming of our planet.

There are also adverse health outcomes linked to the complex climate changes that are emerging in the 21st century. There are significant health consequences that impact global health – for safety and well-being; nutrition and food security; food-, water-, and vector-borne diseases; and mental health. 
These particularly impact vulnerable and disenfranchised populations.

As Lemery, Williams and Farmer (2014) note regarding climate change and its deleterious impact on our global community:

“The people who will suffer most are those who were most vulnerable to begin with, living in regions of the world with perilous human security, pervasive poverty, little fulfillment of human rights, geographic disadvantage, and contributing the least to greenhouse gas emissions. It is in these places that the threat-multiplying effects of climate change will denigrate human dignity, health, and potential the most. It is in these same disadvantaged settings that fragile health systems are least able to cope with the increased demands they will face” (p. 2).         

Climate change is both a critical global health and environmental health challenge; and the health professions must engage, advocate, and offer leadership to mitigate the health effects on the world’s people, as well as to address adaptation to climate change and climate resilience.

Climate change is well known to adversely affect the social and environmental determinants of health – particularly access to food, clean air, and water.

Nightingale’s (1859) prescient views on the importance of pure air, water, light, drainage, and cleanliness are as important in the 21st century as when her ideas were first introduced in Notes on Nursing over two centuries ago.

Most notably, Nightingale understood that areas with weak health infrastructure and conflict areas were particularly vulnerable to negative health consequences.

Climate Justice is a term used for framing global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature.

In our contemporary global community, we are witnessing the negative sequelae of the anthropogenic effects – human impact on the environment – of greenhouse gas emissions and resulting global warming. Moreover, as Levy and Patz (2015) note, “climate change—the global climate crisis—may be the defining moral issue of the 21st century” (p. 311).

The Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice has addressed key principles related to the challenge of our changing climate. Mary Robinson, former President of the Republic of Ireland from 1990-1997 and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002, launched global efforts to address the impact of climate change on health, development, and global communities.

The vision of the Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice (MRFCJ) is to engage in a people-centered, developmental approach, the basis for which are global justice and equity, to advance climate justice and effectively address the impact of climate change (MRFCJ, nd). The MRFCJ focuses on three key areas: human rights and climate change, women’s leadership on gender and climate change, and future generations.

The vision of the MGH Institute Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Health is to reduce the global impact of climate change on health through education, research, and advocacy. We are committed to embracing the concept of climate justice and engaging nurses and other health care professionals in climate change initiatives. 

Our early initiatives include continuing education programming and the development of an innovative, climate-centered nursing certificate. Next year, the MGH Institute will host a symposium bringing together global thought leaders on this important topic. Faculty research on the issue has already begun, and will be further prioritized.

References

Lemery, J., Williams, C., & Farmer, P. (2014). Editorial: The great procrastination. Health and Human Rights, 16 (1), 1-3.

Nightingale, F. (1859). Notes on nursing: What it is, and what it is not. New York: Appleton Company.

Levy, B.S., Patz, J.A. (2015). Climate Change and Public Health, Oxford University Press

Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice. (nd). Principles of climate justice. Retrieved from

Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice. (2013). Meeting the Needs of Future Generations

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