JUNE 13, 2017 – Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told the nurses gathered yesterday for a conference on climate change, health, and nursing to be the voice for “vulnerable communities.”
“[They] are always threatened more by pollution than anyone else,” McCarthy said. “They have been left behind. And in a changing climate, they’re the ones most at risk.”
McCarthy delivered the opening address, via a live-streaming video, for the event, which was held in Copley Formal Lounge and sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment (MACCHE) at the School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS), the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, and ecoAmerica.
‘Speak Truth to Power’
The former official from President Barack Obama’s administration added: “And if they’re not powerful enough to speak for themselves today then we need trusted people like you to speak for them – to really speak truth to power, to talk to politicians, to recognize that the environment has always been a bipartisan issue.”
McCarthy noted that the Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 during the presidency of Richard Nixon. She said that a significant stride was President George H.W. Bush’s support of a 1990 bill, one which amended the Clear Air Act of 1970.
The event, “Climate, Health and Nursing: A Call to Action,” featured a number of speakers and was co-organized by Laura Anderko, PhD, RN, the Robert and Kathleen Scanlon Chair in Values Based Health Care at NHS and MACCHE director.
McCarthy, who highlighted her daughter’s career as a nurse, called on the profession to speak out. “When you speak, people listen,” she said. “You are some of the most trusted advisors.”
Collaboration is key, McCarthy said.
“I know that we need to keep working together,” she said. “And I know that you see everyday, as a nurse, the kind of damage that an unhealthy environment brings [and] the threat it means to our kids in particular – to the kids walking in with asthma attacks on bad air quality days [and] to our kids that are exposed to lead either in the paint or through water. That’s a big challenge to them as they grow up, and it’s a significant challenge to the health care industry.”
Climate change will only worsen the situation, she said.
“And in the face of the changing climate, believe me, we’re going to have more water quality problems than we’ve ever had before, as well as air [quality] challenges,” she said. “We have to make sure that the work of EPA, whose mission is simply to protect public health and the environment, continues, because we need to prevent problems.”