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Consultants’ role in climate action highlighted

By David Lynch - 14th Oct 2022

climate action

Doctors have a unique role to play in issues related to health, the environment, and climate change, the IHCA Annual Conference heard. 

Dr Rachel MacCann

Dr Rachel MacCann, Infectious Diseases SpR and Operations Officer for the Irish Doctors for the Environment (IDE), told delegates that doctors “should be among the leaders in the response to climate change”. 

Dr MacCann highlighted the “ever-expanding role of doctors”, and how doctors “often find ourselves in a privileged and unique position to influence policy making” as reasons for why medical professionals should lead on the issue. 

Dr MacCann discussed the role the IDE plays in activism and policy formation and the concept of ‘planetary health’. 

“Planetary health is the need for a new way of thinking about how health interacts with our planet,” she said. 

Dr MacCann told delegates that planetary health requires a “health solutions” orientation and a “trans-disciplinary field” focus and response. 

During his address to the conference, Dr Graham Billingham, Chief Medical Officer, MedPro Group, placed climate change alongside issues, such as supply chain problems, inflation, demographic changes, and cyber security, as one of the major influencers on health policy in the coming period. 

“Climate change is very interesting,” he said. 

“As a physician what I know is that if you take a virus or bacteria and you subject them to heat changes… they will mutate.” 

Dr Billingham also pointed to a recent case of dengue fever diagnosed in a hospital in Washington state in the US in a patient with no travel history. 

“If I was an [emergency department] physician in Seattle, Washington, and I saw you and you had aches and a fever and you told me you hadn’t be travelling, I don’t think dengue fever would be the first thing on my mind.” 

He said, with climate change, mosquitoes are “taking these illnesses” north. 

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