Alert - Severe Heat Wave! Health Professionals Respond

Cecilia Sorensen (MD), Christian S. Stohler (DMD), Stephen A. Ferrara (DNP, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN), Jeffrey Shaman (PhD), Hannah Weinstein (Medical Student), and Carina Sirochinsky (Medical Student)

The adverse effects of climate change are now apparent and present urgent and complex challenges to human health and health systems globally. Heat waves and rainstorms are becoming more deadly, disease outbreaks last longer and are seen in new regions, wildfire smoke from tinder-dry forests reduces air quality, and food and water security are threatened by extreme weather. Simultaneously, the health care sector is vulnerable to the effects of, and contributes to, climate change, accounting for between nearly 5% of total global carbon emissions and 9-10% of greenhouse gases in the United States. Health professionals have a duty to respond in order to continue to provide ethical, responsive, and accountable care. 


Health professionals occupy a critical position in the response to climate change, yet for our response to be effective, interprofessional cooperation is critical. First, health professionals must work together to prevent and respond to new and compounding threats to individual and community health. Second, health professionals must use their institutional knowledge to modifying health systems to become resilient while becoming carbon neutral. Third, we must use our voices and scientific expertise to advocate for cross-sectoral solutions to the climate crisis, and to articulate climate risks and solutions to patients, the public and policy makers.


In this workshop, interdisciplinary teams of students will work through a case study which exemplifies the health and health system impacts of extreme heat and degraded air quality – serious climate risks which communities and patients in NYC face. Students will together define how these exposures impact patients, communities, and health systems, how health professionals and health systems can respond in a way to safeguard health, and how to message risks and solutions to patients, the public and policy makers.