US Climate and Health Alliance

The climate connection: Nurses examine effects of climate change on public health


When Katie Huffling, MS, RN, CNM, worked as nurse midwife in the Washington, D.C., area, she noticed on days with elevated pollution levels that mothers-to-be with previously controlled asthma came into her office wheezing and struggling for breath, putting themselves and the fetuses they were carrying at risk. Huffling adjusted medications and advised her patients to stay inside on bad air days, but many of them worked and didn’t have cars or even air conditioning. Staying out of the bad air wasn’t a reasonable option. She asked herself, “What can I do to help?”Nurses and other heathcare providers around the world are seeing the effects of changing climate conditions — including increased surface ozone levels and other air pollution — on their patients and asking the same question. A report from the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, released in June, lists direct global effects of climate change, including increased heat stress, floods, drought and frequency of intense storms. Indirect threats include increases in air pollution levels (which rise on hot days), vector-born illnesses such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus, food insecurity, displacement and mental health stressors.

Resource Type
Magazine/newspaper article
Cathryn Domrose
Resource URL
Organization Type
Health and Human Impact
Climate and Environmental Impact
Public health/health sector response
Advocacy Vulnerable populations

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