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King County doctors to take on gun control, climate change

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The Washington State Medical Association is meeting soon in Spokane, and King County’s delegation is going with a special focus on a handful of socially conscious issues that some might argue expand outside the scope of medical care.

“What’s changed is that we now want to have an active voice in these issues that are important to the physicians and the patients,” Dr. Teresa Girolami, president of the King County Medical Society, told Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Radio.

Dr. Girolami and the King County delegation are going with 13 resolutions in hand, covering topics like gun control, global climate change, lead screening in children, and more.

RELATED: Have you talked with your doctor about gun control?

This encompasses one particularly controversial debate that’s come up in Seattle recently, concerning whether a doctor should be required to ask you if you own a gun during routine check-ups.

“It’s really important in the psychiatry field to ask those questions,” said Dr. Girolami. “I think that we’re here for our patients’ health, and we want them to live long, happy, healthy lives, and gun violence affects all of us.”

While the goal isn’t to weave questions like “do you own a gun?” and “is your gun properly stored?” into check-ups where that wouldn’t make sense, Girolami argues that those are still important facets of something like a regular physical, where quality of life questions of all varieties are common.

King County doctors even issued a statement this summer, going in-depth on its stance on gun violence and how physicians can help to prevent it.

The physicians cite the fact that suicide rates are strongly associated with household gun ownership, how access to firearms greatly increases the risk of “conflict-related deaths and injuries,” and how unsafe storage creates a “risk of serious unintentional injury and death.”

By that logic, they argue, asking someone whether they own a gun, and how they store it at home becomes integral to prevention from a mental health perspective.

Taking a stand on climate change

It’s not just gun control that’s coming up as a key issue for King County’s physicians, with climate change occupying a spot on Girolami’s list.

“The resolution addresses things like pollution — doctors are trying to have a say in that because that is not good for our patients to have dirty air,” she explained.

With wildfires affecting the Northwest’s air quality all summer long, it becomes not just a question of saving the planet, but also of saving people whose health is directly affected.

“The smoke this summer was a really great example how people really were really sickened by the air,” Girolami said.

A good deal of scholarly discussion has been devoted to the direct link between wildfires and climate change, making it a key issue for local physicians to hone in on when it comes to things like respiratory health.

The Washington State Medical Association meets Saturday, Oct. 13 and Sunday Oct. 14., at the historic Davenport hotel in Spokane, WA.

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