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Michigan Nurses Join to Protect Environment, Climate

Nurses can help the public and policymakers combat climate change. (healthinfoguru/morguefile)
Nurses can help the public and policymakers combat climate change. (healthinfoguru/morguefile)
January 17, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – They are trusted health allies, and new research looks at the important role nurses can play in combating climate change. The report from the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments found that climate change impacts the health of Midwesterners through an increase in heat-related illnesses and problems associated with flooding.

Report co-author Katie Huffling, director of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, says nurses are trained to help prevent disease, so it only makes sense that they would also use their skills to slow the effects of climate change.

"Nurses can be engaged in public-awareness campaigns, work with the public-health department, work within their hospitals to make sure that especially vulnerable populations like the elderly or people with chronic diseases can then take precautions during heat waves," she explained.

Last week, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy signed a memorandum of understanding that creates a framework to work together on projects to educate nurses about climate change. The report urges nurses to take leadership roles in reducing their own carbon footprint and helping to strengthen their community-preparedness efforts.

Joyce Stein, RN, BSN, is the president of the Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, and she says Michigan doesn't have to look farther than Flint to see the toll a public-health disaster can take on the entire state.

"I think it's the responsibility of the nurse to start looking at how we educate ourselves and the public and our policymakers that if we don't take these steps, what you're planning on doing is going to have this health consequence, which will have its own economic challenges and cost," she said.

The report, which came out of a White House summit last year, also stresses that information about climate change and its health impacts should be included in all nursing curricula.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI