US Climate and Health Alliance

Public health nurses’ knowledge and attitudes regarding climate change


BACKGROUND: Climate change affects human health, and health departments are urged to act to reduce the severity of these impacts. Yet little is known about the perspective of public health nurses—the largest component of the public health workforce—regarding their roles in addressing health impacts of climate change. OBJECTIVES: We determined the knowledge and attitudes of public health nurses concerning climate change and the role of public health nursing in divisions of health departments in addressing health-related impacts of climate change. Differences by demographic subgroups were explored. METHODS: An online survey was distributed to nursing directors of U.S. health departments (n = 786) with Internet staff directories. RESULTS: Respondents (n = 176) were primarily female, white public health nursing administrators with ≥ 5 years of experience. Approximately equal percentages of respondents self-identified as having moderate, conservative, and liberal political views. Most agreed that the earth has experienced climate change and that climate change is somewhat controllable. Respondents identified an average of 5 of the 12 listed health-related impacts of climate change, but the modal response was zero impact. Public health nursing was perceived as having responsibility to address health-related impacts of climate change but lacking the ability to address these impacts. CONCLUSIONS: Public health nurses view the environment as under threat and see a role for nursing divisions in addressing health effects of climate change. However, they recognize the limited resources and personnel available to devote to this endeavor.

Resource Type
Peer-reviewed article
BJ Polivka RV Chaudry Mac Crawford J
Resource URL
Environmental Health Perspectives
March 2012
Organization Type
Climate communication/messaging Public opinion

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