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A Letter to the Editor

Protecting the Health
of Our Communities


e all understand and accept that as
physicians we have a responsibility
beyond just treating illness. We have
an obligation to educate our patients as to the risk
factors that contribute to their disease and help
them find ways to avoid those risks.
This is obviously true for diabetes. It should
also be true for the health impacts of climate
change. According to the IPCC and to the
USGCRP, the health impacts humans will face in
the coming decades will be beyond our capacity
to cope.
Just as we need to educate our diabetics that
eating too many concentrated sweets puts them
at risk, we need to educate our cardiopulmonary
patients that breathing air polluted with ozone
and particulate matter puts them at risk. The
American Lung Association rated air quality in
Chester County F for ozone contamination and
the USGCRP report of 2016 predicts an excess of
as many as 10, 000 deaths/year nationally by 2030
just due to rising ozone levels. Just as we need
to tell our diabetics that the Big Gulp at WAWA
is a source of concentrated sweets, we need to
educate our patients that burning fossil fuels is the
source of ozone and particulate matter in the air.
Just as we need to set a good example by serving
healthy choices in our hospital cafeteria, we
need to set a good example by encouraging our

38 CHESTER COUNT Y Medicine | SPRING 2019

hospital systems to reduce their carbon footprint
and chart a path to elimination of fossil fuels in
their operations. Similar arguments can be made
for the Lyme disease epidemic, pollen induced
asthma, bacterial contaminations of lettuce, and
a myriad of other health issues exacerbated by
human caused climate change.
The American College of Physicians declared
in 2017 that "The Health impacts of climate
change demand immediate action." Many
hospital systems including Sloan-Kettering,
Mt Sinai in NYC, Dartmouth Medical Center,
and Boston Medical Center have committed
themselves to action. Hospital systems that
do not specifically address the health impacts
of climate change in their community needs
assessments are derelict in their duty. The health
care industry accounts for 10% of the carbon
footprint of the United States. Our hospitals
systems should be part of the solution, not part
of the problem. As physicians we need to do our
part to hold our hospitals accountable and to
educate our patients. Our community
depends upon us.


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