Massachusetts Medical Society: Massachusetts Doctors Raise Awareness of Environment/Human Health Link

Massachusetts Doctors Raise Awareness of Environment/Human Health Link

By Robyn Alie, manager, MMS Health Policy and Public Health

This summer, the MMS will launch a multiyear campaign to promote public awareness of the link between the health of the environment and the health of our patients.

Recent polls have shown stark differences between the public’s understanding and scientists’ understanding of the relationship between humans and the environment. They also show that the public’s understanding is heavily influenced by politics.

For example, while studies show that 97 percent of scientists believe global warming is occurring and related to human activity, a Gallup poll conducted in March found that only 64 percent of the public believes this. Among Democrats polled, 89 percent agreed with scientists, compared to 35 percent of Republicans. Overall, however, a record high percentage of Americans — 45 percent — think global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime, and 43 percent — 91 percent of Democrats — report being fairly or greatly worried.

Prioritizing Public Awareness

The upcoming campaign is a directive of the MMS House of Delegates, which adopted policy recognizing the “inextricable link between environmental health, animal health, and human health, and the importance of scientific research in informing policies that protect human health from environmental toxins.” Delegates directed the Society to initiate a public health campaign promoting public awareness of pollutants and their impact on human health.

The MMS Committee on Public Health recommended the policy, noting recent federal actions. These actions included heavy cuts to the federal programs that study and monitor potential environmental toxins, and legislation that would promote industry representation on environmental advisory boards and limit the types of scientific research, including epidemiologic studies, that could guide EPA policy.

Helping Patients and Communities

The campaign is an opportunity for physicians to help clarify the issues and promote safer policy and behaviors, says Louis E. Fazen, MD, member of the MMS Committee on Public Health. It will primarily use the MMS’s Facebook and Twitter channels and website as a cost-effective means of disseminating simple information designed to raise awareness of the links between environmental health and human health. Physicians can find more information and a link to the campaign at massmed.org/environment.

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