President Obama links public health and climate change

(CNN) Debates on climate change can break down fairly fast. There are those who believe that mankind’s activities are changing the planet’s climate, and those who don’t.

But a new way to talk about climate change is emerging, which shifts focus from impersonal discussions about greenhouse gas emissions and power plants to a very personal one: your health.

It’s easy to brush aside debates involving major international corporations, but who wouldn’t stop to think — and perhaps do something — about their own health, or the health of their children?

This new way of talking about climate change — and linking it to public health issues — was part of a roundtable discussion Tuesday at Howard University’s College of Medicine. President Barack Obama joined U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for a roundtable discussion on the topic as part of National Public Health Week.

“I think we’ve always known — or at least in the 20th century we’ve understood — that environment has an impact on public health,” the President told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

“I remember when I first went to college in Los Angeles in 1979, the air was so bad that you couldn’t go running outside,” Obama said. “You’d have air quality alerts, and people who had respiratory problems or were vulnerable had to stay inside. We took action, and the air’s a lot better.”

“There are a whole host of public health impacts that are going to hit home, so we’ve got to do better in protecting vulnerable Americans,” Obama continued. “Ultimately, though, all of our families are going to be vulnerable. You can’t cordon yourself off from air or climate.”

“Communities can start planning for prevention and mitigation efforts more effectively, and hopefully the other thing that happens is that families and parents join with these doctors and nurses to start putting some pressure on elected officials to try to make something happen to reduce the impacts of climate change,” said Obama.

Read the full story at CNN.

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