Health professionals and climate change communication: An exploratory study in Northern Ontario
Master of Health Sciences
DisciplineHealth and Behavioural Sciences
SubjectHealth and climate change
Climate change communication (Health professionals)
Climate and health education
Climate change mitigation
MetadataShow full item record
Health professionals are recognizing and experiencing the impacts of climate change in their work and understand the need to communicate this information to the people and populations they serve. Improved climate change communication, utilizing health professionals’ trusted position in society, has been highlighted as a means to effectively create engagement and stimulate support for climate action. While effective methods of communicating climate change have been identified, there is a dearth of literature demonstrating how health professionals are communicating climate change in their work. In recognition of this gap in research, this study examined how health professionals, who identify as climate change leaders, perceive and communicate climate impacts and action in Northern Ontario. Key-informant interviews (n=19) were conducted with health professionals engaged as climate change leaders in Northern Ontario. The findings from this study revealed that a concerned and passionate subset of Northern Ontario health professionals exists, who understand and recognize the serious health implications presented by climate change. These health professionals viewed the impacts of climate change extending beyond physical health, impacting mental health and social wellbeing, in addition to driving further health inequities based on social determinants of health. However, the current expectations of the health professionals’ role, feeling a lack of capacity and available time, and the politicization and fear of damaging the trusted relationship between clients, community and the health professional were all identified as prominent barriers to communicating climate change. Despite these challenges, participants saw potential for their role to incorporate climate change communication and offered valuable insight into how this might be achieved. Developing an approach to communication that recognises the unique context and experiences of populations residing in the North, while respectfully navigating the tricky sociopolitical landscape, will be imperative to effective communication and action engagement. That being the case, participants advocated for further education and training in regard to climate change health communication to significantly improve their capacity to incorporate the communication into their role, as well as additional resources to support the development of context-specific messaging they could use in their daily practice. These tools would help participants, and health professionals across Northern Ontario, improve their capacity to effectively engage in climate change communication to improve the health of the populations they serve.
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