Emerging Roles of Health Care Providers to Mitigate Climate Change Impacts: A Perspective from East Harlem, New York
Professional associations of health care workers are issuing policy statements on climate change and health with greater frequency, calling on their members to act in their duty to protect and fulfill the right to health. These health care providers’ perceptions of their roles in the intersection of climate and health, however, have not been well-studied. This article presents results from a qualitative study using focus groups conducted with health care providers serving the low-income, ethnic minority population in East Harlem, New York. The focus groups sought to identify and explore providers’ perceived health threats of climate change, as well as their perceived role as frontline disseminators of information and detectors of disease for their patients. Extreme heat events were used to frame the discussion in each group. Three major themes emerged: 1) environmental awareness, 2) an “ecohealth” lens, and 3) heat and health vulnerability. The participants demonstrated their interest in playing a role in climate change adaptation by identifying at-risk patients and helping to tailor clinical care to better serve these individuals.