Exploring Portuguese physicians' perceptions of climate change impacts on health: A qualitative study - 08/07/24

Doi : 10.1016/j.joclim.2024.100333 
Nidia Ponte 1, 2, , Fátima Alves 1, 2, 3, 4, Diogo Guedes Vidal 1, 2
1 Department of Social Sciences and Management, Universidade Aberta, 1250-100, Lisbon, Portugal 
2 Centre for Functional Ecology—Science for People and the Planet (CFE), Associate Laboratory TERRA, Department of Life Sciences (DCV), University of Coimbra (UC), 3000-456, Coimbra, Portugal 
3 Observatory of Sustainable and Healthy Territories of Bocaina, Paraty, 23970-000, RJ, Brazil 
4 Sergio Arouca National School of Public Health (Ensp), Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), Rio de Janeiro, 21041-210, RJ, Brazil 

Corresponding author: Nidia Ponte, Department of Social Sciences and Management, Universidade Aberta, Palácio Ceia, Rua da Escola Politécnica, n.° 147, 1269-001 Lisbon, Portugal, Telef. +351964701740Department of Social Sciences and ManagementUniversidade AbertaPalácio Ceia, Rua da Escola Politécnica, n.° 147Lisbon1269-001Portugal

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Highlights

First study on Portuguese physicians' perceptions about climate change health impacts
Physicians recognize climate effects, notably increased respiratory issues
Limited knowledge exists on the climate-health link
There is a need to integrate climate awareness into medical training

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ABSTRACT

Introduction

Health professionals, as primary responders to climate change health impacts, must be well-informed to effectively communicate adaptation risks and benefits to influence both patients and organizations. This study was undertaken in order to survey how physicians in Portugal understand, explain, and experience the impacts of climate change on health in their clinical practice. Understanding physicians' knowledge level on this subject also can help determine whether training is needed, and through what educational mechanisms.

Material and Methods

Using a semi-structured interview script, this study applied a qualitative methodology with interviews of 13 physicians from various medical specialties in Portugal, aged 28 to 73.

Results

All participants recognized that human action is the main contributor to climate change, indicating that fossil fuels and overproduction are the main factors responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. They also agreed that climate change affects human health. However, they reported that they find connecting diseases to climate change challenging in their clinical practice, and expressed the need for training on the effects of climate change on health.

Conclusion

This study demonstrated that physicians recognized the importance of understanding and communicating the connection between climate change and health in their daily practice, and that failure to recognize these impacts may affect appropriate diagnosis and preparedness for extreme climate events. These results highlight the urgency of addressing the health impacts of climate change and underscore the role of education and awareness.

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Key Words : Physician's, Climate change, Health, Perception


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