Climate Change Calls For A New Hippocratic Oath

Published in Health Affairs | Op-ed by Gary Cohen | July 14, 2021

During the COVID-19 crisis, the health care sector has stood at the epicenter of our collective trauma. In addition to taking care of people sickened by the virus, health professionals have served as messengers and truth tellers, providing the credible information Americans need to protect themselves. Health leaders have also shaped policy in real time that aimed to reduce the public health damage of the spreading virus.

You could say COVID-19 has been a dress rehearsal for an even larger crisis: climate change. Here, too, health professionals are at the center of community response and resilience. Given this pivotal role, it is time to reconsider the roles and responsibilities of health care providers. It is time, in short, for a new Hippocratic Oath. We must ask: What does it mean to “do no harm” in a world threatened by climate change?

Climate change is many things: a drain on our economy, a driver of global migration, a national security threat. It is also the greatest health threat we face today…