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AMA Adopts Sweeping Climate Change Education Policy

Tuesday, July 9, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Todd Sack, MD
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 Dr. Todd Sack at the AMA Annual Meeting in June 2019.

At its June 2019 meeting, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a sweeping new policy that pledges the organization to promote education for medical students and physicians on the topic of the health threats from climate change. The new policy was authored by Duval County Medical Society (DCMS) past-president Dr. Todd Sack. Dr. Sack edits the My Green Doctor program for the Florida Medical Association (FMA), a free service that helps offices save money by adopting wise environmental practices. He is a gastroenterologist with We Care at Borland-Groover, one of Jacksonville’s eleven free clinics.

The new policy builds on the AMA’s large number of statements on environmental health and climate change. These are available by searching the Policy Finder on the AMA website. Among these policies is recognition of the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that climate change will affect public health, the need to educate the medical community on the health effects of global climate change, and the need “to incorporate the health implications of climate change into the spectrum of medical education.”

The new AMA policy is entitled, “Climate Change Education Across the Medical Education Continuum.” Sack explained to the Reference Committee at the AMA  Annual Meeting in June that despite the AMA’s previous positions, very few medical students or practicing physicians are receiving the information they will need during their careers.

The new policy was adopted by the House of Delegates without dissent. It “supports teaching on climate change in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education.” It specifies that the curriculum should prepare physicians to have, “a basic knowledge of the science of climate change, to describe the risks that climate change poses to human health, and to counsel patients on how to protect  themselves from the health risks posed by climate change.”

The AMA further pledged to “make available a prototype presentation and lecture notes on the intersection of climate change and health for use in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education.” The AMA is in the process of creating teaching materials to make available to medical schools and it is developing continuing medical education courses for doctors. Dr. Sack anticipates much of this will be available online next year on the AMA’s website. In addition, the AMA will work with the medical school accrediting organizations to support their efforts to increase climate change education.

Dr. Sack tells the DCMS that every field of medicine will need to be involved in this process. He says, “a pediatrician in Seattle will need a very different fund of knowledge to protect his or her patients than might an emergency room doctor in Toronto or a cardiologist in Jacksonville. Clearly there is an important role that each of our professional societies can play to create working groups to develop the pertinent curricula.”

For help with presenting a similar proposal to your medical organization, contact DCMS member Dr. Todd Sack at tsack8@gmail.com.