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GOOD FOR YOU: Dr Andrew Dallas outlines how Highland health workers are adding their voices to demands for climate action

By Val Sweeney

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Healthcare workers are making their voices heard in the climate change debate.
Healthcare workers are making their voices heard in the climate change debate.

COP26 is constantly in the news. What commitments will be made? How to ensure we avoid the worst outcomes of climate change?

For many healthcare professionals it is becoming increasingly clear climate change is the greatest threat to health worldwide.

We wish to highlight some recent publications which show just how urgently action is needed to reduce the worst effects of the earth’s warming.

On September 6, 233 of the world’s most important medical publications, including the British Medical Journal, made an unprecedented decision to publish an editorial which warns world leaders at COP26 that they must take decisive action to avoid "catastrophic harm".

Shortly after this the Lancet Countdown, an international group monitoring the health consequences of a changing climate, published its 2021 report. They report on a world that has made little progress to protect its population from the health impacts of climate change.

The British Medical Association has endorsed a document detailing the pubic health case for a "Green New Deal".

The Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has also issued a statement, which urges NHS leadership to move to more environmentally-friendly healthcare. And of course, the World Health Organization (WHO) have highlighted the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change on the health of people worldwide.

They have produced a "Healthy Climate Prescription" calling for urgent action, which has been signed by 450 health organisations, representing a staggering 45 million health workers.

As healthcare workers, we recognise climate change is a crisis of enormous proportions, affecting more than just our health.

This has led many in the NHS to step out of their comfort zone to add their voice to demands for action.

Scottish doctors, with the help of the campaigning group Medact, are: signing a statement calling for urgent action at COP26; projecting climate-related health messages onto buildings in Glasgow and developing "prescriptions for change" to hand out to members of the public.

Paediatricians from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London are cycling to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, to coincide with COP26.

They aim to raise awareness of this health crisis, recognising the WHO prediction that 80 per cent of the illnesses, injuries and deaths caused by climate change will affect children.

Doctors are hosting "climate clinics" to raise public awareness of the links between climate change and health.

For our collective health we must hold our leaders at COP26 to account.

*Dr Andrew Dallas is is a GP partner at Cairn Medical Practice in Inverness and the north of Scotland Royal College of General Practitioners’ climate champion.

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