Rural and Suburban Doctors Sounding Alarm on Public Health Impact of Climate Change
May 19, 2017
Inside Climate News featured three primary care physicians from the suburbs of Alexandria, Virginia, to the rural capital of Billings, Montana, who are stepping up to educate their communities about health impact of climate change.
In Billings, Mont., Dr. Lori Byron, a pediatrician, and her husband Dr. Robert Byron, an internist, are witnessing first hand an increasingly alarming situation.
"Lori Byron regularly treats children with asthma, a disease linked with climate change that grew to afflict 8.4 percent of the population in 2010, from 7.3 percent in 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2014, 6.3 million children in the United States had asthma.
In Montana, wildfires are among the biggest environmental polluters. 1Wildfire season is two and a half months longer now than what we used to have a few decades ago." Byron said. "It definitely leads to more asthma attacks.'"
For Dr. Samanth Ahdoot, a pediatrician from Alexandria, VA, the evidence is in front of her.
"Whether it's a 6-year-old boy who contracted Lyme disease in November—long after ticks should be gone for the year—or having to start kids on spring allergy medication in February instead of March, climate change is making its way into Ahdoot's exam room.
"When I discuss it, it's very straightforward," said Ahdoot. "The plants are blooming early because it's so warm, and that's why your child has allergies. Your child got Lyme disease in Chicago because it's 60 degrees and the ticks are out."
These physicians are amplifying their efforts as champions through their membership with the recently Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, which aims to help the public and policymakers understand how climate change is impacting health.