Climate Change is a Health Emergency
June 25, 2019

The University of Maryland School of Public Health joined over 70 public health and medical groups this week to call climate change a health emergency and push for a shift away from fossil fuels.

The U.S. Call to Action on Climate Health and Equity: A Policy Action Agenda, released ahead of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami on Wednesday, June 26, and Thursday, June 27, urges political candidates to keep climate change on the political agenda and act on the Paris climate agreement goals, among other priorities. 

SPH Dean Boris Lushniak moderated a press conference on Monday, June 24 to announce the policy action agenda. “We want to make sure climate change is high on the political agenda,” said Dr. Lushniak, who is also a former U.S. deputy surgeon general. "It's really for this discourse to be taken seriously," Lushniak said. "Climate solutions are health solutions."

Dean Lushniak, whose career before joining the University of Maryland in 2017 included responding to the anthrax scare, Hurricane Katrina and the spread of ebola, said that climate change stands out as a public health crisis.  "I've seen a lot, but this scares me," Lushniak said, speaking to Inside Climate News.

Signatories include the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, the American Lung Association, the American College of Physicians and multiple state-level and academic public health organizations.

Climate change poses a greater threat to vulnerable and marginalized communities, including children, pregnant women and older adults, low-income communities and racial and ethnic minorities. 

Several UMD School of Public Health faculty members are engaged in research and other activities focused on identifying risks posed by climate change to vulnerable communities and developing collaborative solutions and strategies to help communities adapt and to reduce risks. 

“We have to protect the most vulnerable among us,” said Dr. Sacoby Wilson, associate professor in the school’s Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, whose work focuses on community-university partnerships on environmental health and justice issues. “There are many frontline communities impacted by social and environmental injustice who will be differentially affected by climate change- from heatwaves to flooding to more intense and frequent hurricanes. Individuals who live in these communities may not have the resources to escape to safe ground during climate disasters and are unable to recover from the aftermath of these events. We can help these communities become more resilient. But the first step is developing and acting on climate action plans that focus on equity and are informed by voices in the climate justice movement.”

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Inside Climate News: U.S. Medical Groups Warn Candidates: Climate Change Is a 'Health Emergency'