Call for action to address climate and environmental risks for people living with cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular Nursing Council brings attention to environmental and climate related factors in patient care
The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ) Cardiovascular Nursing Council has published a Call to Action in a special issue of the academic journal Heart, Lung and Circulation, to bring attention to climate and environmental impact on cardiovascular nursing practice and recommend climate implications be considered in cardiovascular patient care.
Environmental health ultimately determines human health. Environmental hazards such as extreme heat, erosion, pollution, drought, bushfires, floods, dust storms, and tropical cyclones, and their impact on cardiovascular health will increase as our climate deteriorates.
Until recently, the association between cardiovascular events and climate change disasters received little attention despite the increased prevalence of acute coronary syndrome presentations to hospital coinciding with extreme events. There is also robust evidence of the physical impact of environmental factors such as air pollution, temperature increases and seasonal variations in heart failure hospitalisations.
People living with cardiovascular disease and those at risk of cardiovascular disease are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Each one-degree Celsius increase in temperature is associated with a six per cent increase in cardiovascular disease and increases in hospitalisations.
Chair of the CSANZ Cardiovascular Nursing Council and Associate Head of the University of Wollongong (UOW) School of Nursing (Research Strategy, Development & Partnerships) Associate Professor Caleb Ferguson said that the unprecedented nature of environmental and climate events should not be an excuse for being underprepared.
“We need to have a holistic view of vulnerability, recognise what influences resilience, and appreciate the synergistic effects of climate change on cardiovascular disease.
“Ironically, health care is also a contributor to carbon emissions, making up seven per cent of Australia’s carbon footprint, approximately half of which is in hospitals.
“Nurses provide a critical juncture for future solution co-design in health care systems to both ensure adequate consideration of environmental factors both in patient care and in health care practices,” said Professor Ferguson, a co-author of the discussion paper.
University of Wollongong (UOW) Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Patricia M. Davidson said the University is committed to reducing its impact on climate change.
“The impact of climate change on individual health can no longer be ignored. UOW has committed to work towards carbon neutrality by 2030, to cultivate research towards climate change solutions and to educate our students and community about the climate change.”
UOW’s School of Nursing is educating the nurses of the future to manage both climate impacts on patients, and the impact on the health system.
Associate Head of School (Learning & Teaching) Mrs Lorraine Fields said that the school is asking students to see beyond the traditional boundaries of health and reflect on how their practice may be impacted by the world and particularly consider the impact of climate change.
“We are asking students to stop and consider the resources they are using if they are necessary, and if there are more sustainable options for providing healthcare. We are asking students to consider their role and responsibility as future nurses in providing healthcare that protects, rather than harms, the planet.”
CSANZ Cardiovascular Nursing Council is calling on the healthcare industry to adapt and embed environmental health and disaster preparedness into routine care such as patient education, counselling, pre-discharge assessment and discharge planning.
“In our view, the greatest effect on reducing climate change impact on health outcomes of people with cardiovascular disease can be achieved through ensuring health care services are resilient, robust and prepared for rapid adaptation in disaster situations,” Professor Ferguson said.
“We need to actively adapt cardiovascular care and practice to reduce environmental impact and implement environmentally sustainable health systems to reduce our own contribution to climate change.”
ABOUT THE DISCUSSION PAPER
‘Cardiovascular Nursing and Climate Change: A Call to Action from the CSANZ Cardiovascular Nursing Council’ by Sally C. Inglis, Caleb Ferguson, Rebecca Eddington, Julee McDonagh, Chris J.Aldridgee, Kimberley Bardsley, Dion Candelaria, Y.Y. Chen, Robyn, A. Clark, Elizabeth Halcomb, Jeroen M. Hendriks, Louise D.Hickman, and Rochelle Wynne is published in Heart, Lung and Circulation (https://www.heartlungcirc.org/article/S1443-9506(22)01137-4/fulltext)