Is Your Brand Making the Connection Between Climate and Care?

I know we all have a lot on our plates right now. It’s spring conference season. We’re sliding toward mid-year or fiscal year-end. Maybe you’re just distracted by AI. I’m going to scootch some of those items over and add something else: climate communication.

Exhale. I don’t mean in the sense of why are you still using single-use plastics or OMG here’s the latest terrible news. I mean in the sense that what is going on with the climate (and it’s a lot) makes a direct and indirect impression on our wellbeing. All of ours. Including the people your healthcare service or solution is trying to help.

Climate impacts care

There is a raft of data on this, but I know data only really moves us when we’ve pretty much already made up our minds or we want validation for our choices. If you’re there, I’ve included sources and links in the footnotes. But if you’re not quite sure, let’s just look at the starter facts:  

  • Environmental conditions like extreme heat and air and water pollution increase risk of developing or exacerbating conditions like asthma, heart disease and cancer. EXAMPLES: The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies outdoor air pollution as a Group 1 carcinogen. And extreme heat is already the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. [1]
  • Climate-related impacts from severe weather including flooding and high winds can keep people who need regular care from getting it, render their medical devices useless because of power outages, or impact supplies of vital medications. EXAMPLE: The Texas Hospital Association found that flooding and other impacts from Hurricane Harvey closed roads and highways, keeping some dialysis patients from getting treatment and slowing delivery of critical medicines and other medical supplies to healthcare sites. [2]
  • Living with environmental injustice, surviving severe weather and feeling worried about climate change harms mental and emotional health, leading to anxiety, depression and hopelessness. EXAMPLE: Climate events that affect housing can produce temporary and longer-term mental health issues like stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially in children and other vulnerable populations. [3]

As with so much in healthcare – and society in general – these realities are disproportionately harsher for people of color, birthing people and children. Climate is a powerful and harmful social determinant of health that worsens well-being and perpetuates health inequities [4]

These data show the major influence climate has on healthcare. Ignoring the facts prevents you from addressing a factor that drives patient outcomes and experience, mitigates negative SDOH and improves equity.

The flooded front yard here at Word Factory HQ, 9 January 2024

Health pros are trusted climate communicators

The research also shows that healthcare professionals are the most trusted messengers on the role of climate in health. For at least the last decade, primary care providers and health leaders are the most trusted source of information on global warming and climate change. And, importantly, the health frame can be more meaningful and promote healthy decisions. [5]

Read more about why trust matters in content marketing.

Every healthcare brand has medical professionals on staff or in advisory roles. What’s missing is a program that leverages their credibility and knowledge to make connect the dots for patients. Giving them important information about how climate issues impact their conditions and their overall health is the just thing to do. And, because I know some of you are wondering, it aligns with tenets of personalized medicine and value-based care – models that move the levers that impact reimbursement and quality scores. [6]

In the face of these facts, it’s time to start or increase your brand’s stand on climate and health on your owned channels and earned and paid ones, too. (This includes thought leadership activities, too.) And if the thought of that makes you nervous, I get it. ESG backlash and climate contentiousness are real. But there’s a lot of sentiment and opinion research to support the decision and guide you in creating climate conversations that resonate rather than alienate. And that stay on the proactive, hopeful side rather than the doom-and-gloom content that just bums everyone into inaction (or worse).

Get the Associated Press' guidance on climate change terminology.

Beyond the links in the footnotes, check out these resources to learn more about why and how to integrate climate communication:

Now is the time for your brand to communicate about the health impacts of climate. If you’re not sure where to start or you want expert feedback on your ideas schedule a free 20-minute climate conversation with me.

Related Content

REFERENCES

[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Climate Change Impacts on Health. www.epa.gov/climateimpacts/climate-change-impacts-health

[1a] Associations Between Extreme Temperatures and Cardiovascular Cause-Specific Mortality: Results From 27 Countries. Volume 147, Issue 1, 3 January 2023; Pages 35-46 doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.061832

[1b] The Unexpected Impacts of Climate Change on Cancer Care. www.targetedonc.com/view/the-unexpected-impacts-of-climate-change-on-cancer-care

[1c] ACS Environ. Au 2023, 3, 1, 5–11 Publication Date: August 31, 2022. Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society. This publication is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0. doi.org/10.1021/acsenvironau.2c00012

[1d] Ebi, K.L., et al. (2018). Ch. 14: Human health. In: Impacts, risks, and adaptation in the United States: Fourth national climate assessment, volume II. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, p. 546. https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/downloads/NCA4_Ch14_Human-Health_Full.pdf

[2] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Climate Change Impacts on Health. www.epa.gov/climateimpacts/climate-change-impacts-health

[2b] Texas Hospital Association. Hurricane Harvey Analysis: Texas Hospitals’ Preparation Strategies and Priorities for Future Disaster Response. capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/85R/handouts/C2102018051010001/7d5c2c0d-a060-4a24-8eae-4ae4b7a8bebc.PDF

[3] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Climate Change Impacts on Health. www.epa.gov/climateimpacts/climate-change-impacts-health

[3a] EPA. 2023. Climate Change and Children’s Health and Well-Being in the United States. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 430-R-23-001. www.epa.gov/cira/climate-change-and-childrens-health-report

[4] White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Climate change and Environmental Injustice as Social Determinants of Health. www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/news-updates/2023/11/16/climate-change-and-environmental-injustice-as-social-determinants-of-health/

[4a]  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Climate Change and the Health of Pregnant, Breastfeeding, and Postpartum Women. www.epa.gov/climateimpacts/climate-change-and-health-pregnant-breastfeeding-and-postpartum-women

[4b] Ragavan MI, Marcil LE, Garg A. Climate Change as a Social Determinant of Health. Pediatrics. 2020;145(5): e20193169. doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-3169

[4c] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Climate Change and Health Equity. www.hhs.gov/climate-change-health-equity-environmental-justice/climate-change-health-equity/index.html   

[5] Maibach, E.W., Kreslake, J.M., Roser-Renouf, C., Rosenthal, S., Feinberg, G. and Leiserowitz, A.A. (2015) ‘Do Americans Understand That Global Warming Is Harmful to Human Health? Evidence From a National Survey’, Annals of Global Health, 81(3), p. 396-409. doi.org/10.1016/j.aogh.2015.08.010.

[5a] Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Carman, J., Neyens, L., Myers, T., Goldberg,M., Campbell, E., Lacroix, K., & Marlon, J. (2022a). Politics & Global Warming, April 2022. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. www.climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2022/  

[5b] Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). American Climate Perspectives Survey 2021. Health Surpasses Jobs in Climate Action Support. ecoAmerica. Washington, DC. ecoamerica.org/american-climate-perspectives-survey-2021-vol-ii/  

[5c] Foong LH, Huntley R. Communicating about climate change−who is listening, who isn’t and why: implications for medical professionals. J Paediatr Child Health 2021;57(11):1826–9. doi.org/10.1111/jpc.15717

[6] The ASHA Leader. Including Social Determinants of Health in Value-Based Care Payment leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/leader.BML.28052023.slps-value-based-care.24/full/