Who are Fossil Free Health?

I’m a junior doctor at the North Middlesex Hospital in Tottenham, currently working in paediatrics, and have been passionate about the links between the environment and people’s health since early in medical school.  Climate change is clearly a major and growing threat to health, particularly that of today’s children and young people. What’s less well-known is the public health opportunity it offers: transitioning to a clean energy economy will help prevent many common diseases that are worsened by air pollution, from asthma to heart disease and stroke.  Just as it doesn’t make sense for organisations whose purpose is to safeguard health to profit from the tobacco industry, health institutions can no longer justify investing in fossil fuel companies but need to start investing in clean energy solutions. Isobel Braithwaite

I’m a public health doctor in London, interested in how our health is determined by economic factors. This includes things like income inequality, modes of transport, carbon-intensive lifestyles as well as climate change. I try to balance two roles: on the one hand advising policymakers and civil society groups about how they can shift our world towards one with more health and well-being for current and subsequent generations. On the other hand, I conduct research in trying to identify new risk factors and new interventions for future use. On the one hand, I am extremely grateful to the Welcome Trust for generously funding my research. On the other hand, I am disappointed with the fact that they continue to hold investments in fossil fuel companies, and that a small part of my salary comes directly from the profits of extracting and burning fossil fuels, which already shortens the lifespan of Londoners by about 6 months (as well as untold consequences for others around the world). Taavi Tillman

I’m an Emergency Medicine doctor, film-maker and active member of Fossil Free Health. In 2016 I founded Anxious Activism, an independent production company that creates character-led short documentary films and audio-visual tools for grassroots groups and non-profits working to protect public health, democracy, human rights and the environment. I wrote and directed ‘Divest Health’, a short film about Fossil Free Health’s campaign to divest UK health institutions from fossil fuels. Zoe Steley

I’m a psychiatrist in Berlin, Germany and led the call for divestment of the Berlin Doctors Pension fund.  The effects of unmitigated climate change will potentially be devastating for human health and civilisation. We are all called upon to act on this challenge. Divestment of health institutions from fossil fuels is an essential step that we can all take to meet this challenge and to comply to the  “do no harm“ principle that guides us as health professionals.   In the long run this will pay off in every respect that is important to us as doctors, and pension holders.

Dieter Lehmkuhl

I’m a nurse, and began working at Medact following an MSc in Public Health – during which I co-led a campaign calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels. I am passionate about raising awareness of the health impacts of climate change and mobilising health professionals to use their influence to advocate for action. I manage Medact’s Climate, Energy and Health projects. I co-organised Medact’s 2016 conference on health and the environment, which helped increase awareness and impact of Medact campaigns on divestment alongside other environment and health issues. I think it’s hugely important to stress the co-benefits to health of taking action on climate change as these are some of the most powerful arguments for change, including the benefits of cycling and walking, of clean energy and reduced air pollution, and of healthy and sustainable diets. Divesting makes a powerful statement to policy-makers that continued reliance on fossil fuels is not compatible with public health. Given so many institutions in the UK and globally have now divested there is no excuse for health professionals not to take seriously our commitment to ‘do no harm’. Alice Munro

I’m currently a junior doctor in Sheffield, and every day I encounter people suffering under the health burden of the fossil fuel economy – from former miners with occupational lung diseases, to growing numbers with diabetes and ischaemic heart disease driven by physical inactivity and a diet determined by high-carbon intensive agriculture. A just transition to a lower-carbon society is not just absolutely necessary to avert perhaps the greatest global health threat of the 21st century – anthropogenic climate change – but it’s also an unparalleled opportunity for dealing with the local health challenges I confront every day. The fossil fuel industry has opposed this transition at every turn, by denying evidence, subverting science, and lobbying against legislation. It’s unconscionable that health institutions could continue to offer material support to such an industry. Our covenant with society asks that healthcare professionals work always to promote the health of patients and the public; continued investment in fossil fuels is directly at odds with that responsibility. Alistair Wardrope

I am a 4th year medical student at Edinburgh University and outgoing co-ordinator of Healthy Planet UK, an affiliate of Medsin focusing on educating, advocating and taking action on the links between climate change and health. As Healthy Planet coordinator, I’ve taken part in the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) delegation to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, challenged decisions made there in protests at the Paris Climate Summit, taken direct action to successfully campaign for fossil fuel divestment at Edinburgh university and worked to introduce Climate Change and health teaching on to the medical curriculum. Eleanor Dow

I’m a final year medical student from UCL. From a young age I have been interested in the two-way relationship between the environment and us. Having been based in central London for the last 6 years, every day is a reminder of how fossil fuels impact our health via the pollution that clogs up our lungs. However, it is also the broader impact fossil fuels have on health, such as changing tropical disease patterns, flooding and other adverse weather events, food security, that has lead me to want to fight against the stronghold that fossil fuel companies have on our society. As a future health professional, it is ethically unacceptable to continue investing in these companies that so negatively affect our health.

Roshni Patel