According to the World Health Organization, climate change is the biggest health threat facing humanity. This assertion opens ANA’s latest position statement–Nurses’ Role in Addressing Global Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Health–which was released today. This new position statement builds on previous work at ANA around the nurses’ role in addressing this global health issue. Recognizing that climate change is a critical public health issue, the position statement calls for nurses to take action while providing additional guidance for nurses in all specialties and settings.
Foremost, ANA calls on nurses to integrate the science of climate and health in nursing education, research, and practice. Nurses also must work with other stakeholders and policymakers to identify and implement approaches to addressing climate-related health impacts. The vital role of the nurse in the nation’s health care delivery system makes our nurses critical contributors as climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are identified and implemented.
ANA outlines several recommendations for how nurses can affect change in professional settings and in state- and federal-level legislative and regulatory advocacy. Recommendations for nurses in the professional setting include educating patients, modeling and promoting strategies responding to the impacts of climate change, and prioritizing nursing workforce capacity for disaster/climate change preparedness. State- and federal-level legislative and regulatory advocacy recommendations include advocating for underserved patients, calling for just and equitable climate responses in public health, and promoting coalitions and other partnerships.
ANA also provides guidance for all nursing organizations to build on member education, and collaborate with partners and stakeholders to strengthen the influence nurses have on climate change legislation and policy. Further, the position statement details the importance of supporting research led or supported by our nurses to further identify innovative and real approaches on climate change and climate justice.
Such efforts will be futile if we fail to participate in policy making and fail to engage in climate justice. Which is why it is imperative for nurses to use their voice to lead action aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change and to protect vulnerable individuals, families, and communities responding to changing climate conditions. As the most trusted profession, nurses are in a unique position to also serve as a source of hope—acting ethically on behalf of their patients.
ANA does not have all the answers to climate change and its outsized impacts on healthcare delivery. As a first step, it is critical that we all recognize that the health concerns related to climate change exacerbate every issue our nursing organizations actively work to resolve. The threat of climate change will not be addressed in a silo—an all-hands approach is called for to make real and lasting progress on this issue. The guidance and recommendations in ANA’s newest position statement are a call to action, and a call for nursing leaders to get involved.
Additional ANA Resources:
ANA House of Delegates Resolution (Historic policy, 2012) — Nurses’ Role in Recognizing Educating, Advocating for Healthy Energy Choices
ANA House of Delegates Resolution (Historic policy, 2008) – Global Climate Change