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Arizona Nurses Join Forces to Combat Climate Change

A new report says nurses can be on the front line of fighting the effects of climate change. (MGDBoston/Morguefile)
A new report says nurses can be on the front line of fighting the effects of climate change. (MGDBoston/Morguefile)
January 12, 2017

PHOENIX — Nurses can make a difference in the fight against climate change - that’s one of the main points from a report released Thursday by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.

The researchers found that climate change impacts people's health in the Southwest directly through increased incidence of heat-related illnesses. But it also harms people indirectly by worsening air quality and causing drought, which hurts agriculture and the economy.

Katie Huffling, director of the alliance and a co-author of the report, said nurses prefer to prevent disease rather than treat it, so it makes sense to fight to slow down climate change.

"We lay out some ways that nurses can start taking action,” Huffling said, "whether it's working with their hospitals on energy efficiency and sustainable energy, to things like talking to policymakers about why this issue is so important to the health of their constituents."

The report also urged nurses to reduce their own carbon footprint, help their communities prepare for emergencies related to climate change, and campaign to include education about climate change and its health effects in the university curricula for nursing degrees.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy signed a memorandum of understanding that creates a framework to work together on projects to educate nurses about climate change.

Gail Petersen Hock, a Phoenix-based assistant professor of nursing who specializes in public health, said climate change is already taking a toll on the most vulnerable Arizonans.

"We have about an 8 percent rate of childhood asthma and it's rising,” Hock said. "And so that means that in Arizona alone there are 120,000 asthmatic children that need clean air so that they can grow and lead healthy lives."

The report came out of a summit held late last year by the Obama administration called the 2016 White House Summit on Climate Change, Health and Nursing.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ