Physicians Addressing Climate Change

(UroToday.com) Dr. Wael Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health and the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity at UCSD gave the first of a group of presentations and panels on climate change and its effect on health care.


As a leader at the National Institutes of Health’s GeoHealth Hub on Climate Change, Dr. Al-Delaimy is uniquely positioned to delineate the toll of climate change on health. With increases in heatwaves, there has been increasing in heat-wave related death and decrease in human habit-ability in many environments, such as in the Middle East and California’s own central desert counties. He notes a potential increase in mean summer temperatures of 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) will correlate with a 1200% increase in heat-wave related death. For urologists specifically, increased summer heat and heat waves put patients at risk for nephrolithiasis and renal disease.

Flooding poses a unique risk with disruptions to service delivery and continuity. Not only is there an acute medical surge with increased demand during disasters, but also there is long term impact on chronic disease care. Disparities arise with many of the communities affected by extreme weather are already the world’s most vulnerable, multiplying the threat to communities.

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Next, Dr. Al-Delaimy addressed clinical solutions to combat climate change in practice. Specifically, having honest conversations with patients regarding the risks and direct impact on their health. In the case of Urology, physicians should consider heatwaves as risk factor for renal diseases and address these issues with affected patients. On a systems level, health systems must build resilience of critical health care infrastructure and update hazard vulnerability analyses to health hospitals at risk deal with increasing frequency of extreme weather.

Further, medical societies including the American College of Physicians, American Lung Association, etc have resources for physicians to combat Climate Change. He notes that the American Urologic Association lacks guidelines or statements regarding climate change.

Below is a list of some of the professional societies and organizations addressing climate change:

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Dr. Al-Delaimy emphasizes that health professionals are uniquely suited to lead the efforts to combat climate change, as health professionals are often seen the most trusted members of society worldwide. Healthcare professionals are informed by scientific evidence but compelled by ethical and moral authority to improve the health of communities.

Following multi-disciplinary meetings on climate change, including scientists, thought leaders, politicians, religious leaders, and Pope Francis, Dr. Al-Delaimy led an effort to compile a book regarding the health impacts of climate change, Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility.

You can download his book for free here: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-31125-4

Presented by: Wael Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health and the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity at UCSD;

Written by: Michelle Leach, MD, PGY3 Urology Resident Physician at UC San Diego, during the 2023 Urology for Social Responsibility Meeting January 14-15, 2023

References:

  1. Solomon CG, LaRocque RC. Climate Change - A Health Emergency. N Engl J Med. 2019 Jan 17;380(3):209-211. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1817067. PMID: 30650319.
  2. Al-Delaimy, W., Ramanathan, V., & Sánchez Sorondo, M. (Eds.). (2020). Health of people, Health of Planet and our responsibility. Springer Nature.
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