Is there a Doctor in the House? Or the Senate?

Health effects of climate change

Its a question that jumped to mind when I read the editorial "Confronting health issues of climate change" from the American Medical Association about climate change and health. The editorial provides a bedside view of what the health effects of warming temperatures look like:

If physicians want evidence of climate change, they may well find it in their own offices. Patients are presenting with illnesses that once happened only in warmer areas. Chronic conditions are becoming aggravated by more frequent and extended heat waves. Allergy and asthma seasons are getting longer.

The AMA editorial goes on to describe climate-related health issues doctors are seeing in Florida, where the AMA has been doing Continuing Medical Education courses:

Rising air and water temperatures and rising ocean levels since the late 1960s have increased the severity of weather, including hurricanes and droughts, and the production of ground-level ozone.

That means more asthma and respiratory illnesses, more heat stroke and exhaustion, and exacerbation of chronic conditions such as heart disease. Florida's large elderly population makes it even more vulnerable to climate change. In the last two years, the Florida Keys have seen a tropical disease rarely apparent in residents of the United States -- dengue fever.

AMA has also done these courses in Maine, about which AMA says:

Maine, another state in which the AMA hosted climate-change CME, is seeing similar trends in terms of climate affecting chronic conditions . . . it'sexpected to have a rising rate of heart attacks and problems related to extreme snow, ice and cold. Climate change produces weather extremes on both ends of the temperature spectrum. In Maine, that's being seen in a marked increase of Lyme disease. It has risen tenfold in 10 years, particularly in the central and northern parts of the state, which had not seen the disease until recently.

For more information on how climate affects health in other parts of the country, check out the American Public Health Association's report "Climate Change is a Public Health Issue" from which the following graphic was plucked:

So, the message could hardly be clearer, and its straight from the Doctor's mouth:

Patients are sicker or developing new conditions as a result of changes in the weather.

Greater awareness and understanding of the situation, from a medical perspective, is a proper priority.

So, is there a Doctor in the House? In fact, there are. Nineteen, according to the HealthCare blog.

But gee, that's weird. Most of the Doctors in Congress have have cast votes that would make climate change - and thus climate-related health risks - worse. Or they have clearly stated positions that they don't support reducing carbon pollution.

Aren't doctors supposed to do no harm?


  1. Tom Coburn (R, Republican), Oklahoma, family physician and ob-gyn (who says the issue is "malarkey.")
  2. John Barasso (R, Wyoming), orthopedic surgeon (who is trying to block efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.)
  3. Rand Paul, (R, Kentucky), ophthalmologist (a denier of climate science.)

House Incumbents

All but two of the 16 House members who are doctors voted for amendments to the House budget bill that would block EPA from reducing carbon pollution:

  1. John Boustany (R, Louisiana), cardiovascular surgeon
  2. John Fleming (R, Louisiana), family physician
  3. Bill Cassidy (R, Louisiana), gastroenterologist
  4. Tom Price, (R, Georgia), orthopedic surgeon
  5. Paul Broun (R, Georgia), family physician
  6. Phil Gingrey(R,Georgia), Ob-Gyn
  7. Ron Paul (R, Texas), Ob-Gyn
  8. Michael Burgess (R, Texas), Ob-Gyn
  9. David “Phil” Roe (R, Tennessee), Ob-Gyn
  10. Larry Bucshon (R, Indiana), thoracic surgeon
  11. Andy Harris (R, Maryland), anesthesiologist
  12. Dan Benishek (R, Michigan), general surgeon
  13. Scott DesJarlais (R, Tennessee), family physician
  14. Joe Heck (R., Nevada). emergency room physician

The two House members that didn't vote to block carbon reductions are:

15. Jim McDermott (D, Washington), psychiatrist

16. Nan Hayworth (R, New York), ophthalmologist

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