An estimated 90 attendees, the majority nurses, were present at Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments’ (ANHE) Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action conference held on June 12th and 13th at the Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies. The conference, co-sponsored by ecoAmerica and the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, was hosted by ANHE with the aim of bringing nurses across the country together to discuss the impacts of climate change on health and nursing’s role in addressing this issue.
Setting the tone for the day was a keynote address by Gina McCarthy, former U.S. EPA Administrator and national leader in environmental health, whose remarks reinforced the role of nurses as trusted messengers and essential to protecting vulnerable communities. McCarthy called on nurses to advocate on behalf of the most at-risk populations in a changing climate, and “speak truth to power, to talk to politicians, to recognize that the environment has always been a bipartisan issue.”
McCarthy closed her remarks with a few final thoughts.
- “Stay focused”, emphasizing the need for nurses to talk to their patients and local communities about climate and health.
- “Fight the good fight. We are in a fight we have to win”, focusing on the need to fight for our children’s health and future.
- Take action. McCarthy noted, “It’s a time when we are significantly challenged, but called to action.”
In addition to McCarthy, ANHE hosted a variety of speakers whose works is focused on addressing the impacts from climate change. Speakers included John Balbus from the National Institute of Environmental Sciences, who educated nurses on the link between climate and health, and Bob Perkowtiz, ecoAmerica, and Doug Glancy, Climate Reality Project, who provided training on how to effectively communicate about climate and health.
Nurses had the opportunity to discuss among colleagues and hear from nurse leaders on how climate action can be incorporated into practice settings, research, education, and policy/advocacy work. Additional speakers from the American Lung Association, Georgetown Climate Center, and the American Public Health Association provided insight into how nurses and organizations can work in a unified manner to address this global health crisis.
To continue the momentum, on the second day of the conference nurses took what they learned and met with their representatives to express concern around the current and projected impacts posed by climate change. During visits, nurses educated legislators on the risks to vulnerable populations and the need to take action to prevent adverse health outcomes.
The conference left nurses feeling inspired and equipped with tools to lead the charge in addressing climate change. The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments will continue to educate, connect, and support nurses to ensure that our country continues to take action to move climate solutions that prioritize health forward. Stay tuned for more updates as we to continue to solidify leadership across the profession with our new Nursing Consortium on Climate Change and Health.