Despite scientific consensus about the risks of climate change on human health, patients´ knowledge on climate change related health risks is largely unexplored. The current study aimed to investigate the current state of climate-specific healthy literacy in patients and the impact of climate-specific medical advice on patients’ behavior regarding health co-benefits.
In December 2020 and January 2021, a total of 449 questionnaires comprising 23 items were completed by patients of general practitioners (GPs) and gynecologists.
The majority of general consultations by physicians (86.6% patients from GPs, 84.5% from gynecologists) did not contain any information about climate change or planetary health. Results indicated that climate change is regarded as a global health threat (84.3%) rather than a concern for patients´ own health (66.4%). Patients who received climate-specific medical advice by their physician showed higher knowledge about and awareness of climate change related health risks (p=0.002) as well as emotional concern for their own health (p=0.04) than patients who did not receive advice. Climate-friendly behavior was associated with greater concern about climate change related health-risks (p<.0001).
Climate-specific health literacy may play an important role for health co-benefits and climate change mitigation. In order to promote and protect both individual and planetary health, it is crucial to improve the status of climate-specific health literacy.