Speak to your patients and clients

Health professionals are uniquely powerful in communicating the health impacts of climate change to patients.

When speaking to your patients and clients, you can outline how that particular person, or their family, may be affected by climate impacts. For instance, you could explain to older patients the risks during intensified heatwaves, or the risks to those with respiratory illness from bushfire smoke. Here are some ideas:

Climate health risks and who is vulnerable

Messages you can use

Heat illness

Socially isolated, older individuals, athletes, outdoor workers, people with chronic disease (e.g. obesity, cardiovascular, chronic pulmonary, asthma, cancer), pregnant women, children, urban racial minorities, patients with mental health conditions.

"We are seeing more hot days in our area than we used to due to our climate becoming warmer. Heat can be tough for people who are older / people with chronic breathing conditions / other condition."

"Let's discuss ways to make sure you are prepared and know your options to escape the heat if needed."

Aeroallergen illness

People with seasonal allergies, asthma or chronic pulmonary disease

"There is more pollen in the air than there used to be due to our climate becoming warmer. This is an important consideration as pollen may worsen your allergies / lung condition / other condition and make it harder for you to breathe."

Air pollution-related illness

Adults with cardiovascular or chronic pulmonary disease, children with asthma

"Burning fossil fuels creates air pollution which is reducing air quality in our area. Poor air quality can worsen heart disease / lung disease / other condition."

"Checking air quality and avoiding busy roads when exercising can help protect you."

Extreme weather events

Can apply to anyone who is exposed to extreme weather events

"Bushfires are becoming more common in Australia due to climate change. We live in a bushy area, and fires may directly threaten our safety and properties. Make sure you have an evacuation plan ready in bushfire season."

"Due to climate change, bushfires are becoming more common in Australia, and therefore so is bushfire smoke. Smoke can travel a long distance and can be dangerous for everyone, but especially those with heart disease / lung disease / other condition."

"It is important to check air quality condition during bushfire seasons to make sure the air is safe to breathe outside. You may want to consider keeping a smoke-safe mask at home."

Adapted from "Table. Clinical Scenarios for Climate Messaging" in Senay, Sarfaty & Rice (2020). Reading this paper is very worthwhile.


Want more? These resources can help you to communicate with your patients and clients:

Go back to '10 ways to act on climate change'