Climate change is one of the single biggest threats to humanity. From global warming to pollution and natural disasters, climate conditions are continuing to worsen, and people – especially those with respiratory diseases – are suffering as a direct result.
Given the urgent need for action, Amgen recently saw an opportunity to convene leaders across industries to discuss how to change the negative trajectory of the health of our planet and people alike.
Amgen facilitated this important conversation with Axios, a leading news organization that covers pressing topics of today, including politics and the economy along with health and environmental issues. The conversation evolved to focus on scalable solutions at the national and local level, all while keeping an eye towards solutions that benefit patients with respiratory diseases who are often most vulnerable.
Five key takeaways from this year's discussion included:
- The impacts of climate change and health disparities are linked. Climate change is real, rapid and relentless. Events that are unfolding across the world stage, like extreme weather, are influencing a conversation about the staggering disparities that exist while making an irrefutable case that climate change is a public health issue. Efforts are needed on both a national and local level to help people affected by manmade and natural disasters, such as the recent McKinney wildfire in Northern California that impacted living conditions and health outcomes for thousands of residents.
- More than 4 in 10 Americans live in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution. According to the American Lung Association, more than 137 million people live in places with failing grades for air quality, due to unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone. Furthermore, roundtable panelists acknowledged that oftentimes, indoor air pollution is overlooked when discussing air quality – which can be equally as harmful if not worse if you're not mindful of what environmental triggers are present. And the impacts of climate change are seen not only physically, but mentally as well. Higher temperatures have led to mental trauma from wildfires, building a case for mental impacts to be further studied.
- Extreme heat and air pollution directly impact those with respiratory diseases like severe asthma. It is impossible to discuss the outcomes of climate change without acknowledging the very real effects on those living with respiratory conditions. "Climate conditions continue to worsen, and these conditions directly impact those with respiratory diseases," said Amgen roundtable participant Lori Hunt, executive director, Environmental Social Governance, during opening remarks. "From severe weather to rising carbon dioxide levels, these harmful effects disproportionately impact diverse and underrepresented communities at higher, alarming rates." There's still a lot more that needs to be discovered about climate change and respiratory health, which can inform tailored solutions that are grounded in science. Efforts must be made to both slow the progression of climate change through national and global initiatives, while implementing more immediate, scalable solutions to support those with respiratory diseases at the local level.
- The World Health Organization predicts an estimated $2-4 billion in annual climate-related health costs by 2030. The costs related to climate change include myriad impacts to human health. From the additional medical care required for exacerbating chronic conditions, to increases in emergency room visits, costs continue to mount as climate conditions take their toll on people's health. In addition, impacts of climate change result in lost productivity, workdays and school days missed, in addition to increasing demands on caregivers. A potential solution to tackle climate-related emergency room visits, for example, could be improving local policies to combat climate change.
- Amgen is committed to working with our partners on this topic to help patients live healthier lives. A community-based approach is imperative to developing solutions to address climate change. Solutions should be community-focused and community-led to ensure they can be implemented and that community concerns are addressed. Examples of this in action are Amgen's sponsored Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's (AAFA) HEAL Innovation program and the Not One More Life Trusted Messengers Program that aim to improve respiratory outcomes for underserved and disproportionately impacted communities. It is important to recognize that to be most effective in climate change efforts, the work cannot be done alone. It is critical to work together to implement scalable solutions, and Amgen looks forward to continuing to create spaces for these important conversations to occur.
For more information on this roundtable, check out Axios' event recap for additional details.
To learn more about Amgen's environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach that guides our actions to address climate change and health disparities, head to our ESG webpage.