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Nurses Stand Up for Healthy Environment

A new report puts nurses on the front line of fighting climate change. (Robert Bieber/Flickr)
A new report puts nurses on the front line of fighting climate change. (Robert Bieber/Flickr)
January 16, 2017

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Nurses can make a difference in the fight against climate change, according to a report released by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.

Researchers found that climate change impacts people's health in Montana and the Great Plains by worsening air quality and causing drought, which hurts agriculture and the economy.

Co-author Katie Huffling, director of the nurses’ alliance, says nurses prefer to prevent disease rather than treat it, so it makes sense to fight to slow climate change.

"We lay out some ways that nurses can start taking actions, 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," she states.

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

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy signed a memorandum of understanding last week that creates a framework to work with the nurses’ alliance on projects to educate nurses about climate change.

Wade Hill, a registered nurse and associate professor at Montana State University, says the Treasure State already has seen the effects of climate change through increased forest fires and droughts.

He says standing up for the best interest of the public, in this case pointing out the health effects of climate change, is the duty of nurses across the country.

"When we perceive there are extreme risks to the population, it's part of our job, it's an ethical mandate for us to do something about it,” he states. “So I think that we will see greater action among nurses in the future and in partnership with other allied health professions."

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

Reach Huffling at 240-753-3729; Hill at 406-529-3202. Report at

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT