NH Healthcare Workers for Climate Action launched this weekend

  • Former Gov. John Lynch addresses health care workers outside of the State House. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • Representative Chris Pappas (NH-01) speaking with attendees.

  • Dr.Robert Friedlander Jr. with incoming councillor Stacey Brown's son, Shaun. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • League of Conservation Voters tabling alongside New Hampshire Health Care Workers for Climate Action. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • Dr. Robert Friedlander Jr. addressing attendees. Ben Domaingue photos / Monitor staff

  • Attendees of The New Hampshire Health Care Workers for Climate Action rally, including current and former clinicians, as well as supportive families and students. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • Attendees of The New Hampshire Health Care Workers for Climate Action rally, including current and former clinicians, as well as supportive families and students. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • Attendees of The New Hampshire Health Care Workers for Climate Action rally, including current and former clinicians, as well as supportive families and students. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

Monitor staff
Published: 12/5/2021 5:25:58 PM

Pediatricians and other healthcare professionals say they are an essential line of defense in educating families and their children on the detrimental effects of climate change on a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing, while remaining a non-partisan and objective practitioner with their patient’s best interests in mind.

“Caring for children is at the core of what I do,” Tommy Walsh, a pediatric resident for Dartmouth-Hitchcock, said at the launch of New Hampshire Healthcare Workers for Climate Action this weekend. “Children are an incredibly vulnerable population, they don’t have any political power, so that are forced to inherit the world that we create for them.”

Walsh and other members of this new coalition believe physicians and other healthcare workers must highlight healthy behaviors that benefit the planet.

“More plant-based food options is a really simple thing to suggest,” said Walsh. “You can’t tell parents how to vote or who to vote for, but you can always lean towards ‘such and such person supports this legislation which will have this effect.’ ”

The group of active and retired, clinical and nonclinical workers from a variety of healthcare settings plan to focus on “climate solutions” through education and advocacy.

“What kind of world will she be living in in 30 years?” said former Gov. John Lynch, one of the speakers at the event in front of the State House on Saturday.

Children were an important focus in their discussions on climate change, including its impacts on their physical health.

“Climate health is so important to the next generation coming around,” said Melinda Compton, a representative from the New Hampshire School Nurses Association. “We’re very much advocates of wellness — social, emotional and physical health.”

Compton believes it is important for school nurses to work with children, their families and their educators in incorporating climate information into their mental and physical health.

“[We] have to look at different illnesses — children get impacted by by their environment, their water, heat, as heat can affect respiratory illnesses,” said Compton. “We need to make people aware or interested in making changes.”

In addition, adolescents and young adults are becoming increasingly fearful of having children, due to climate-induced anxieties. A study from The Lancet found that 36% of individuals 16-25 were “hesitant to have children,” while nearly three-quarters are frightened for the future.

The group will work with health care providers to provide their patients treatment to combat adverse health effects as a result of climate change, and educate families on how to be more climate-healthy. One fear is working with families who may not trust their health care professionals, or who may believe that climate change is inherently political.

“I think the best way we can combat that is we talk as physicians and talk as scientists, and ground what we say in evidence,” said Dr. Robert Friedlander Jr., the founder of New Hampshire Healthcare Workers for Climate Action. “There’s no political or partisan tone to that.”

Friedlander believes it is possible to have these discussions with pediatric patients and their families effectively, even at a young age.

“We can have these conversations in age-appropriate ways, to build that awareness,” said Friedlander. “We’re are having discussions about how to develop climate-appropriate educational materials that can be included in offices.”

Friedlander wants to bind climate and health together, noting they both influence the other.

“It’s one thing to talk about climate and to talk about health, but to actually bring it into an office and provide clinicians to tools to talk with a family about climate change,” said Friedlander.

The group has received support from some Concord city officials, including incoming Ward 5 Councilor Stacey Brown.

“I promise every decision I’m going to make will be with addressing climate action,” said Brown. “We have to. If there are doctors pulling together, looking out for our health and our children, that’s the least I can do.”




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