Healthcare professionals are on the front lines for public health, caring for people affected by climate change.

Duluth Campus post-doc Brenna M. Doheny, PhD, MPH, and faculty member Emily Onello, MD, are among the co-authors on the paper “Understanding the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of Healthcare Professionals toward Climate Change and Health in Minnesota,” which was published in the MDPI journal Challenges on November 1.
This research project was led by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and was designed to improve the understanding of how healthcare professionals in Minnesota view the health impacts of climate change.
The survey was distributed by the Minnesota Department of Health to nurses and physicians in the spring of 2021 and resulted in 4453 completed surveys that were included in the analysis.
The study found that while the majority of respondents agree that climate change is happening (75%) and that it impacts the health of their patients (60%), only 20% felt well prepared to counsel patients about the issue. The main barriers to such conversations were lack of knowledge (57%), lack of time (40%), and perceived lack of interest among patients (29%). One respondent wrote: “I think climate change related health problems are only going to increase as problems get worse (more fires, less vegetation, increased tick population, poorer air quality).” Another respondent commented “This is a very important issue that I do not know enough about and is not talked about enough in a healthcare setting.”
The results of the study suggest that there is an unmet need to develop targeted resources to support healthcare professionals in addressing climate change. “Physicians are already on the frontlines of helping patients deal with the impacts of climate change,” said Dr. Onello. “It’s critical that we incorporate climate health into the curriculum at the Medical School so our students are prepared to meet this challenge when they enter practice.”
Dr. Onello and Dr. Doheny continue to collaborate with Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, an organization that educates healthcare professionals, the public and policymakers about climate health and advocates for solutions. “As health professionals, we have a responsibility to the future, to protect the health of generations to come. We need to bring all our skills and ideas to the table and work together to address the climate crisis.” said Dr. Doheny.

Read the full paper here.