Climate Change Is A Health Crisis, And Doctors Aren't Prepared

Aditi Malhotra

Illustration: Josh Cochran for HuffPost

This story about climate change and education was produced as part of the nine-part series “Are We Ready? How Schools Are Preparing — and Not Preparing — Children for Climate Change,” reported by HuffPost and The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

On a gray, drizzly January afternoon, more than 80 students gathered inside Room M106 at Stanford School of Medicine for a lecture on how the changing climate affects children’s health.

Stanford physician-scientist Kari Nadeau, who focuses on allergies and asthma, discussed young patients she’s treated whose symptoms may be linked to climate stresses. She talked about a 12-year-old whose depression, insulin resistance and asthma seemed to be getting worse as a result of air pollution and extreme heat. She challenged the student audience to come up with possible diagnoses and asked, “What can we do to improve the health of this child?” 

Her lecture was not part of regular coursework. It was the third in a series of 10 lunchtime lectures organized by two Stanford medical students to address a gaping hole in their school’s curriculum: the health effects of climate change.

This lunchtime series marks the first time the Stanford School of Medicine has addressed climate change in its teaching, to show how it affects different fields of medicine, including pediatrics, women’s health, infectious diseases and nutrition.  

Anna Goshua, a second-year medical student at Stanford, developed the series with a classmate. It was born out of frustration with the lack of training on climate change and health at their school, despite the growing evidence that disasters fueled by climate change had increased hospitalizations and emergency department visits. 

“It’s dangerous, to say the least, for us to walk into our collective future unprepared,” Goshua said.

That danger couldn’t be more...

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