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For Health Professionals: Be the Scientist, Practitioner and Advocate

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Dr. Mellinger Birdsong, is on M&O’s Partnership Council and represents the Ga. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She also serves on our Board of Directors. Dr. Mellinger Birdsong often testifies and speaks out for improving air quality to protect children’s health.

As a supporter of M&O, you may be asked to use your expertise as a medical and/healthcare professional, climatologist or environmental scientist to participate in the following:

  • Write letters to the editor
  • Attend public meetings
  • Provide expert testimony
  • Meet with elected officials
  • Develop organizational policy statements
  • Sign on to medical professional letters
  • Participate in interviews with the media
  • Partner with a nonprofit that can help you reach out

To help you navigate the divide between the scientist-practitioner and the advocate roles, Roger Pielke’s Five Modes of Science Engagement is a guide that you can use in deciding your level of engagement in advancing public policy to improve air quality and fight climate change, as it pertains to public health, especially children’s health.

An example of a respected scientist who successfully blended the roles of science researcher, science communicator, science educator and science policy advocate/activist was Dr. Carl Sagan. Dr. Sagan was instrumental in bringing key scientific issues to forefront of the scientific community, public and policymakers’ consciousness and decision-making.

Keep in mind the following when deciding to use your expertise to advocate.

Decide what cause(s) and the extent of your involvement in that cause. For example, you can give a talk to educate the public and policymakers about a particular topic. You can also engage in some of the advocacy activities mentioned above.

Decide if you are advocating as a concerned citizen, a representative of your job or for your professional association. If representing your job or professional association, it is recommended that you review that organization’s policies on engaging in advocacy work.

An example of this is the American Academy of Pediatrics policy on climate change and the health hazards to children, which advises pediatricians on how to incorporate air quality issues with education and advocacy on children’s health.