AMA meeting: Global warming has health toll, delegates warn
■ The house also endorses initiatives to reduce medical waste and build more eco-friendly health facilities and products.
Orlando, Fla. -- Most climate scientists say the Earth is getting hotter and that human activity is speeding up the process. At its Interim Meeting in November, the AMA House of Delegates agreed with the scientific consensus.
The house endorsed the findings of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Delegates also warned that climate change could have dramatic public health consequences, causing heat waves, drought and flooding, cutting potable water supplies, displacing populations and spreading infectious diseases.
Policymakers should "work to reduce human contributions" to global warming, says the AMA's new policy, which is based on a report from the Association's Council on Science and Public Health.
"The scientific evidence is clear that global climate change can cause serious health consequences, and we need to be a part of planning as people talk about preparing for climate change occurring," said AMA Board of Trustees member William A. Hazel Jr., MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Oakton, Va.
Gary L. Woods, MD, a member of the Council on Science and Public Health and a Concord, N.H., orthopedic surgeon, said the recent rise in vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever is attributable to climate change and that the health toll from global warming is only beginning.
The AMA supports research on health-related climate change policy and encourages doctors to work with health departments on health consequences of global warming.
Some delegates objected to the AMA's endorsing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's conclusions.
Daniel J. Koretz, MD, an internist and alternate delegate for the Medical Society of the State of New York, said the IPCC's findings represented "politicized science" that happened "outside the normal peer review process." But the house voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new policies on global warming.
In a related action, the house adopted policy encouraging efforts to cut medical waste, recycle, use and develop environmentally friendly products, and build health facilities that use less energy. Between 30% and 50% of medical waste can be recycled, the council report says.
Delegates also rescinded previous house policy that called for the elimination of Environmental Protection Agency medical waste regulations "that cannot be shown scientifically to protect the public health."
For the first time in AMA meeting history, delegates and staff did not get printed copies of handbook materials that run hundreds of pages, though delegates could request them. About three-quarters of delegates chose to view and edit materials electronically, saving reams of paper.