Planetary Health is Human Health.
The Planetary Health Report Card is a student-driven, metric-based initiative to inspire planetary health and sustainable healthcare education engagement in medical schools. In addition to inspiring expansion of medical school curricula, we hope to inspire medical schools to expand research efforts, engage with communities most affected by climate change and environmental injustice, support passionate medical students who are trying to organize around planetary health at the institutional level, and implement sustainable practices. A set of metrics in these five category areas allows students and faculty to conduct a needs assessment at their medical school.
What Students and Faculty Say About the PHRC:
The Planetary Health Report Card is a novel and vital compilation of key data that paints a clear picture of the existing needs for climate health and sustainability content in US medical school curricula. It served as a foundational resource and needs assessment for a project focused on improving and updating our medical school’s planetary health curricular content.
-Faculty member at UCSF
Thank you so much for all that you have done – we definitely feel that this project has spurred important conversations within the administration, as well as the beginnings of curricular & philosophical change. The report card has also given us some great jumping off points for ideas to better publicize to med students and centralize the planetary health resources that already exist, as well as to advocate for new ones.
-Genny Silva, Student Report Card Lead at Penn
2020-2021 Report Card Progress
Since publication of the first report card, we have expanded our leadership team and have been recruiting for this year’s Report Card. We already have students at over 50 medical schools starting the process at their institution in the USA, UK, Ireland and Canada. We will be publishing the 2020-2021 Planetary Health Report Card on World Earth Day, April 22nd, 2021.
If you would like to form a team at your medical school or find out if there is an existing team, then please do get in touch, ideally by December 11th, 2020, in time for the final orientation and to give you sufficient time to complete the report card before the submission deadline.
Sections of the Report Card
Today’s medical students will be on the frontlines of tackling climate change’s impacts on human health. Therefore, it is critical that medical students are trained to understand the health effects of climate change, as well as planetary health more broadly. Topics like the changing geography of vector-borne diseases, the health consequences of air pollution, environmental health inequities, and disaster response principles must be part of every medical school’s core curriculum.
Interactions between health and the environment are complex and multifactorial. While climate change has been extensively studied from an environmental science perspective, planetary health is an emerging field. As leading health institutions with talented researchers and research resources, medical schools should fund research studying the health effects of climate change and anthropogenic environmental toxins. This obligation is particularly strong because the public and policymakers are more attentive to climate change when its implications for human health are emphasized.
Community Outreach and Advocacy
Researching and teaching planetary health is necessary but not sufficient. It is critical that institutions also directly engage with communities most affected by environmental health harms. Although climate change is a problem largely created by those with power and resources, its impacts fall disproportionately on under-resourced populations and communities of color. Institutions should partner with local communities affected by climate change and pollution to share information about environmental health threats, advocate together for change, and provide opportunities for students to be a part of this work.
Support for Student-Led Planetary Health Initiatives
Planetary health is a young field and, as young people facing a future deeply shaped by climate change, students are often some of the first at an institution to engage with it. Institutions should provide support for students to engage in sustainability quality improvement (QI) initiatives, discover mentors in their area of interest, and receive funding for planetary health projects.
The healthcare industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions as well as pollution that harms local, regional, and global ecosystems. While healthcare is, by nature, a resource-intensive endeavor, the healthcare sector is well poised to lead the world to a more sustainable future. This will involve scrutinizing every aspect of how health systems operate, from where energy is sourced, to how health systems’ infrastructure is built, to what companies systems invest in. Medical schools, clinics, and hospitals must set the standard for sustainable practices, and show other sectors what is possible when it comes to minimizing environmental impact.