Although the effects of climate change are taking a significant toll on human health, climate change is still not part of the curricula in most medical schools and hospital residency programs.
The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) recently conducted a global survey of medical schools across 112 countries. They found that climate change is taught in only 15 percent of medical schools worldwide.
“Our data is concerning and stresses the urgency of the call for change. Medical schools need to redesign their curriculum to integrate the health impacts of climate change. Currently, our future doctors aren’t taught enough about the biggest health threat they will face in their career,” Omnia El Omrani, Medical Student From Egypt And IFMSA Liaison Officer For Public Health Issues, said in a statement.
The effects of climate change on human health are far-reaching. Wildfire smoke from the fires will have long-lasting consequences, especially on individuals with respiratory conditions. General air pollution resulting from a changing climate has been linked to serious health problems and is deadly as smoking multiple cigarettes each day. Heat-related deaths are predicted to rise as climate change raises global temperatures. And more and more people are being exposed to vector-borne diseases due to climate change.
As climate change continues to threaten human health, there are renewed efforts, supported by the American Medical Association, to teach medical students about the health impact of climate change. Some doctors are also pushing for that education to continue through residency programs.
“At its heart, this is about preparing our resident physicians to provide the best care for patients and to safeguard health in our changing climate,” Dr. Rebecca Philipsborn, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University, told NPR. “Patients want physicians to be able to provide guidance on things that affect their individual health. We have this accumulating body of evidence that climate change does just that. It changes what we see and it poses harms to our patients.”
Philipsborn and Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, have published a framework to guide hospitals in teaching residents about climate change.
NPR outlined the three parts of Philipsborn and Bernstein’s framework: explain how climate change affects health, suggest ways doctors could adapt patient care in response to changing environmental factors, and prepare doctors for times climate change might interfere with care.
Listen to NPR’s interview with the doctors leading the calls to include climate change in residency program curricula.
Read more articles on the human impact of climate change:
- Wildfire Smoke Has Far-Reaching Health Consequences
- How the Climate Crisis will Displace Billions of People Around the World
- Climate Change is Driving More Powerful and Frequent Catastrophes like California Wildfires & Atlantic Hurricanes
- Climate Change Affecting Some Americans’ Decisions to Have Children
- Climate Change Could Cost Trillions of Dollars in Economic Damages
- How Deforestation Leads to the Spread of Deadly Viruses from Animals to Humans
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