Georges Benjamin, MD, APHA executive director, accepts the American Climate Leadership Award from ecoAmerica's Rebecca Rehr and Leyla McCurdy at this year's summit.

Georges Benjamin, MD, APHA executive director, accepts the American Climate Leadership Award from ecoAmerica’s Rebecca Rehr and Leyla McCurdy at this year’s summit.

Health professionals and organizations around the world are incorporating climate solutions into their practice and calling on local, national and global policymakers to reduce climate pollutants and build climate resilience in the name of public health. They made their voices heard in the nation’s capital last week with two noteworthy climate and health gatherings.

APHA was proud to partner on these events and to be recognized for its commitment to clean energy at ecoAmerica’s American Climate Leadership Summit 2019 on May 1-2 in Washington, D.C, and to sign onto a new U.S. Call to Action at the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health’s Annual Meeting on April 28-29 in Arlington, V.A.

Georges Benjamin, MD, APHA executive director, accepted the inaugural ecoAmerica Climate Leadership Award on behalf of his grandchildren. The awards were presented to health climate leaders committed to 100 percent clean energy use by 2030.

“The climate change mitigation and adaptation activities we are engaged in today do have co-benefits for health,” he said. “But the truth is, it’s all about health. Health is not a secondary issue here; it’s primary.”

The summit explored breakthrough strategies and ideas to broaden and catalyze action and advocacy for effective climate solutions. Sessions focused on expanding public support and political will, with national health leaders discussing ways they are leading on climate to improve health.

Dr. Benjamin introduced the new APHA Center for Climate, Health and Equity with a sense of urgency, echoing the tone of the summit. “The science is clear. Climate change is here, and it’s impacting our health today. This is not an issue for the future,” he said.

Signaling the center’s support of public health workforce development and policy, he announced that 10 students and recent graduates will receive scholarships to attend the APHA Speak for Health Advocacy Bootcamp July 15-16. There, they will learn how to advocate for a commitment to action on climate and health.

Collaboration across sectors was a theme of the summit, with Dr. Benjamin also moderating the “Breakthroughs in Health, Faith, and Communities” panel, during which national faith leaders discussed how they are bearing witness to the damage of our changing climate. Prominent local community and government leaders also talked about the prospects for climate action in cities, counties and states.

Earlier in the week, at the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health meeting, participants called on government, business and civil society leaders and decisionmakers to recognize climate change as a health emergency. There, too, organizers urged all parties to work across government agencies and with communities and businesses to prioritize action on climate health and equity.

As moderator for the “Community Health and Equity” breakout session at the meeting, Surili Patel, MS, with APHA’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity, said, “We need community-driven solutions to the harmful climate effects that we all experience. It will take all of us working together at all levels to address the effects of climate change on health.”

Healthcare, public and environmental health organizations committed to a U.S. Call to Action on Climate, Health and Equity that outlines 10 priority actions integral to policymaking at all levels and across all sectors. The document states, “Without transformational action, climate change will be increasingly severe, leading to more illness, injury, and death; mass migration and violent conflict; and worsening health inequities.”

The U.S. Call to Action stems from the Global Call to Action, announced at the Global Climate and Health Forum, held September 12 in San Francisco, CA. APHA is a proud signer of both and looks forward to sharing this commitment with members and partners once the U.S. Call to Action is released in upcoming months.

The recent events taking place around climate and health in the nation’s capital serve as catalysts for action. Health advocates spent day two of the meeting asking their Congressional Representatives and Senators to act on climate and health legislation. And summit participants spent part of their second day in working sessions to identify cross-sector climate engagement and advocacy opportunities.

Both gatherings presented an opportunity to shift from talking the talk to walking the walk, as APHA is doing with its new Center for Climate, Health and Equity.