Top Medical Orgs Declare Climate Change World’s ‘Greatest Public Health Challenge’

By Ayana Byrd Jun 25, 2019

Dozens of the United States’ most prominent health organizations came together to fight climate change via a policy agenda declaration that addresses what they call the “greatest public health challenge of the 21st century.”

On Monday (June 24), 74 medical and health groups released “U.S. Call to Action on Climate, Health And Equity: A Policy Action Agenda.” The organizations include the American Medical Association, American Heart Association and the American College of Physicians, and several academic public health departments. It reads: “The health, safety and well-being of millions of people in the U.S. have already been harmed by human-caused climate change, and health risks in the future are dire without urgent action to fight climate change.”

The actions presented in the declaration are ideological, policy and health-based shifts that can be adopted by governments and industries. It emphasizes that equity for all people must be central to any actions that will effectively combat climate change, stating:


Climate change threatens everyone in the U.S., but is a more immediate danger to some. Climate change exacerbates health inequities, disproportionately harming the most vulnerable among us—children and pregnant women, people with low income, the aged and people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, some communities of color, indigenous people and tribal communities, immigrants, marginalized people of all races and ethnicities, and outdoor workers, communities that have experienced systemic neglect and environmental racism have the least responsibility for climate pollution, but are the most affected. These communities have less access to the political, economic, social and environmental resources that enable them to cope with climate threats and face potentially unmanageable pressures as the impacts of climate change mount.

The declaration contains six priority action policy recommendations. They include the U.S. meeting the requirements of the  Paris Agreement (in 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the nation would be pulling out of the global treaty); using renewable energy in place of coal, oil and natural gas; implementing zero-carbon transportation systems; promoting sustainable farms and food systems; making clean, safe drinking water available for all people; and adopting policies that support communities and workers who have been adversely impacted by climate change.   

Although the document is intended to address policymaking, environmental rights advocates hope that it can also influence voters. Ed Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, told The Associated Press that for voters who see climate change “primarily as a threat to things in the environment, like polar bears,” that labeling it a health issue could change their thinking.

The entire document can be read here.