Climate-specific Health Literacy and Medical Advice: the Potential for Health Co-Benefits and Climate Change Mitigation. An exploratory Study

Elsevier,   The Journal of Climate Change and Health, 2021, 100072
Lydia Reismann, Andrea Weber, Michael Leitzmann, Carmen Jochem

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.