Experts to discuss covering climate change and public health; your input invited

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

There is no question that the changing climate is already having an impact on Americans’ health. Heat waves, wild fires and air pollution are growing worse; the range of vector-borne infectious diseases is expanding; intense storms are causing more disruptions to water and food supplies, as well as to the health care delivery system.

So how should journalists go about covering this unfolding environmental health story?

Learn more at this year’s annual conference in Baltimore, where a panel of experts from the National Institutes of Health, academia and the media will lay out what is currently known about climate change and health on Friday May 3. They will offer resources and story ideas to pitch to editors. They would like to tailor the panel discussion to help AHCJ members do their jobs and invite questions from journalists before the conference. Questions can be sent to me at bara@healthjournalism.org.

This year’s panelists include John M. Balbus, M.D., the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences’ senior adviser for public health; Aaron Bernstein, M.D., Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s co-director of the Center for Climate, Health and Global Environment; Mark A. Mitchell, M.D., George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication’s associate professor of climate change, energy and environmental health equity, health and climate solutions; and Jane Palmer, a long-time environmental health journalist.

Balbus is co-author of the National Climate Assessment, a congressionally mandated look at the impact and risks of climate change on the nation’s communities, the economy and public health. The fourth edition of the assessment was published in November 2018. Balbus is planning to talk about the most recent research on climate change and health.

Bernstein, who is a pediatric hospitalist at Boston Children’s Hospital, plans to talk about climate change stories that journalists can focus on this summer, such as allergies, heat waves, power outages, suicides, possible disruptions to the health system and growing infectious disease threats, as well as how climate change may particularly impact children. He also will talk about some potential policy solutions for helping communities prepare and lessen the impact of climate change.

Mitchell specializes in social justice issues and climate change and will talk about how community groups and physicians are responding to and preparing vulnerable populations for climate change.

Palmer aims to discuss her approach to covering climate change and health and how reporters can look for stories and personalize them. She will share a few of her favorite resources and ideas for pitching publications that are interested in these stories.

For those wanting to get up to speed on climate change and health before arriving in Baltimore, check out this January 2019 AHCJ webcast with Bernstein, as well as this tipsheet on climate change, health and infectious diseases.

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