The Planetary Health Alliance defines planetary health as “a field focused on characterizing the human health impacts of human-caused disruptions of Earth’s natural systems.” This definition is intentionally broad, intended to encompass the multitude of ways that the environment can affect health, including water scarcity, changing food systems, urbanization, biodiversity shifts, natural disasters, climate change, changing land use and land cover, global pollution, and changing biogeochemical flows. The health of humanity is dependent on our environment and our environment is changing rapidly and in disastrous ways. Although the World Health Organization has called climate change “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century,” many medical schools’ institutional priorities do not reflect the urgency of this danger to human health.
As we prepare for a life’s work as health professionals, we must be prepared to address the impacts of human-caused environmental changes on our patients’ health. This preparation is in the hands of the institutions providing our medical training. It is imperative that we hold our institutions accountable for educating medical students about the health impacts of climate change and other anthropogenic environmental changes, generating research to better understand health impacts and solutions, supporting related student initiatives, embracing sustainable practices as much as possible, and engaging with surrounding communities that are most affected by environmental threats. Because climate change and environmental threats disproportionately affect vulnerable populations (for example, communities of color, older adults sensitive to health threats, and individuals in low-resource settings), these issues are inherently ones of equity and justice.
With the purpose of increasing planetary health awareness and accountability among medical schools, we have created a standardized and reproducible Planetary Health Report Card that medical students internationally can use to grade and compare their home institutions. This student-driven initiative aims to compare medical schools on the basis of discrete metrics in five main category areas: 1) planetary health curriculum, 2) interdisciplinary research in health and environment, 3) university support for student planetary health initiatives, 4) community outreach and advocacy centered on environmental health impacts, and 5) campus sustainability. This project is inspired by the Racial Justice Report Card, an initiative from White Coats 4 Black Lives that has led to substantial impactful change at medical schools around the country.
The Planetary Health Report Card was founded by medical students at UCSF School of Medicine with the help of many faculty mentors. We intend for this report card to be an annual publication in order to track institutional change over time. We hope this initiative helps inspire improvement in planetary health engagement, for our education, for our future, and for our planet.
Founders and Pilot Year (2019-2020)
Co-founders: Karly Hampshire, Bennett Kissel, Nuzhat Islam, and Colin Baylen
Contributing author: Sarah Schear, MS
Two years ago, we launched the Human Health and Climate Change Club at UCSF. Since then, we have met with policymakers, organized expert panels, enacted sustainability initiatives, proposed resolutions to state medical associations, and presented at conferences. In 2019, we decided to craft a standardized and reproducible Planetary Health Report Card for the evaluation of medical schools. We are hopeful that this report card will help inspire institutional change, at a time where institutional engagement with planetary health is urgently needed.
Pilot Year Medical Student Report Card Leads
UCSF: Karly Hampshire, Nuzhat Islam, Bennett Kissel, Colin Baylen, and Sarah Schear
UCSF/Berkeley Joint Medical Program: Raj Fadadu, Sarah Schear, Xiaoxuan (Christina) Chen, and Tommaso Bulfone
Stanford: Jonathan Lu and Ashley Jowell
Harvard: David Mazumder, Julia Page, Julia Malits, and Adam Meier
George Washington: Samuel Duffy, Rose Milando, Savita Potarazu, Ali Sjaarda, and Harleen Marwah
Brown: Megan Duckworth, Swechya Banskota, Winston McCormick, Neha Reddy, and Sarah Kaelin
McGill University: Gianjeet Triya Ramburn (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jia Li Liu (email@example.com), Shiyang Shen (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Kelan Wu
University of Hawaii: Aiko Murakami and Trevor McCracken
Penn: Authors- Jeromy Gotschall and Genevieve Silva
Contributors/support- Taylor Streaty, Yi Zhou, Michael Wang, Catherine Yang, and Sara Briker
Tufts: Sharon Kelmar, Cara Lembo, Allie Neeson, Ali Omsberg, Jacob Rha, Jacqueline Shen, and Emma Williams
University of Minnesota: Jack Inglis (email@example.com), Maria Bryan, Daniel Ly, Karly Boll, Aaron Rosenbloom, and Anna Rahrick
University of Arkansas: Kristin Larsen, Zainab Atiq, Olivia Tzeng, Kaley Ferguson, Dakory Lee, Bailey Singleton, and Jace Bradshaw
Georgetown: Zaynab Almothafer, Gavin Clark, Brendan Crow, Aditi Gadre, Chloé Jammes, Siena Romano, and Noah Steinberg
Thank you to Natasha Sood and Nuzhat Islam, who designed and compiled the 2019-2020 pilot report.
Thank you to our faculty mentor, Katherine Gundling, and all the other faculty who helped guide this project: Arianne Teherani, Sheri Weiser, Annemarie Charlesworth, Bob Gould, Patrice Sutton, Teddie Potter, and Tom Newman. Without you, none of this would be possible.