New MIG Focuses on Climate Change, Environmental Health

April 05, 2019 01:57 pm News Staff

Last fall, family physician Mona Sarfaty, M.D., M.P.H., called a damning report about global climate change "terrible news" -- but she added that for physicians, it contained an "extraordinary opportunity."

[smoke from coal powered power station]

Sarfaty was speaking as director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, which the AAFP helped found. Now, as a charter member and secretary of the Academy's new Climate Change and Environmental Health Member Interest Group (MIG), Sarfaty will help to leverage primary care physicians' power in service of that opportunity.

The mission of this MIG, the AAFP's 17th, is to "increase the understanding of family physicians about the health harms of climate change and environmental degradation and the health benefits of climate solutions and environmental justice."

Matthew Burke, M.D., of Seattle, chairs the new MIG. The co-vice chairs are Zach Wachtl, M.D., of Denver, and Barbara Doty, M.D., of Wasilla, Alaska. The AAFP's Commission on Health of the Public and Science oversees the MIG.

Burke, who has spoken about climate change to AFP chapters, told AAFP News last October that physicians are uniquely convincing advocates.

"If you go to a state lawmaker who is different-minded from you, and you say that this is science, and this is bad for my patients, you can affect legislation from a position of scientific and moral authority," he said.

The objectives of the new MIG are to

  • educate AAFP members about the health harms of climate change and the health benefits of climate solutions;
  • share ideas to encourage policies that support energy efficiency, build resilience against health dangers and displacements associated with climate change and environmental degradation, and increase use of renewable clean energy;
  • spread understanding that climate change is a human-caused problem that reinforces environmental injustice and undermines health equity;
  • help recent residency graduates pursue fellowships focused on solutions to climate change;
  • increase and support applicable advocacy from the AAFP and members; and
  • help recruit and retain members who are interested in climate change and environmental health.

Among the MIG's long-term goals is establishment of at least one fellowship for family physicians who want to be more involved in policy issues surrounding climate change and healthy environments.

You can sign up for the MIG by using the "Visit Online Community" button on the MIGs page, where you can also explore the Academy's other MIGs:

  • academic mentorship,
  • adolescent health,
  • breastfeeding medicine,
  • direct primary care,
  • emergency medicine/urgent care,
  • global health,
  • hospital medicine,
  • independent solo/small group practice,
  • lifestyle medicine,
  • obstetrics,
  • oral health,
  • point-of-care ultrasound,
  • reproductive health care,
  • rural health,
  • single-payer health care and
  • telehealth.

Related AAFP News Coverage
Fresh Perspectives blog: Let's Take a Public Health Approach to Climate Change
(2/18/2019)

More From AAFP
Environmental Concerns in Public Health

In the Trenches blog: Protecting the Environment, Our Health
(4/17/2018)