ATS international and US members agree climate change affects patient health

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Credit: ATS

NEW YORK, NY– Oct. 07, 2016 – A survey of international members of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) found that 96 percent of respondents agreed that climate change is occurring and 81 percent indicated that climate change has direct relevance to patient care. Compared to a similar survey of American ATS members, more international physician members reported that climate change was affecting their patients "a great deal" or a "moderate amount" (69 percent international vs. 44 percent U.S.).

Survey results are published in the October issue of the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

"The response from international physicians underscores that of American respondents who noted the impact of illness severity related to increases in pollution, specifically asthma, COPD, pneumonia and cardiovascular disease," said John Balmes, MD, past Chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee and one of the study authors.

Respondents further noted the following as the most common health effects of climate change among their patients:

  • Severity of chronic disease – 88 percent
  • Increased allergic symptoms – 72 percent
  • Heat-related effects – 70 percent
  • Injuries due to severe weather – 69 percent
  • Vector-borne infections – 59 percent
  • Diarrhea from food/water-borne illnesses – 55 percent

The survey, which was conducted by the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, polled 5,013 international members. The survey had a response rate of 9.8 percent and respondents represented 68 countries.

The survey results come on the heels of the DC District Court of Appeals' hearing of oral arguments related to the US Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan on September 27. ATS and several physician organizations jointly filed an amicus brief with the court arguing that climate change has negative consequences for patients' health.

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About the Annals of American Thoracic Society (AnnalsATS)

The AnnalsATS is a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Thoracic Society. The Journal delivers up-to-date and authoritative coverage of adult and pediatric pulmonary and respiratory sleep medicine and adult critical care. The scope of the Journal encompasses content that is applicable to clinical practice, the formative and continuing education of clinical specialists and the advancement of public health. Editor: John Hansen-Flaschen, MD, the Paul F. Harron Jr. Family Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

About the American Thoracic Society

Founded in 1905, the American Thoracic Society is a medical professional organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, research and cure of pulmonary disease, critical care illness and sleep-disordered breathing. Our 15,000 physician, researcher, nurse, respiratory therapist and other allied health professional members pursue our mission through research, education, clinical care and advocacy.

Because of the well-established links between exposures to air pollution and respiratory health, the ATS plays an active role in advocating for National Ambient Air Quality standards that protect the public health from air pollution.

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