We, as IFMSA, believe that our duty of care not only includes the future of our individual patients, but also that of communities locally, nationally and globally. Hence, IFMSA recognizes climate change as the biggest global health emergency of our century that demands action of utmost urgency. As medical students, we are concerned about the future and health of our generation, that will be impacted by the current lack of sufficient climate action in life-threatening ways. As future healthcare professionals, we understand how crucial it is to build climate resilient health systems that ensure the provision of quality healthcare for all.
The 2019 Report of the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change presents concerning trends, including increasing exposures to heatwaves, wildfires, and infectious diseases, and rising temperatures that threaten crop yields and people’s capacity to work. At the same time, the response to the human symptoms of climate change has been slow. The carbon intensity of the energy system has remained the same since 1990, and coal use, the major contributor to energy greenhouse gas emissions, was estimated to have caused 440,000 premature deaths globally due to PM2.5 air pollution in 2016.
For years now, the IFMSA has been advocating toward Health, Environment and Climate Change, gathering activities from a local to a global level and voicing the opinion of 1.3 million medical students’ coming from 126 countries worldwide.
To strengthen climate resilience, we must ensure a well prepared health workforce who are knowledgeable about the impact and influence climate has on health and are equipped with the skills, knowledge and values to take action. The Lancet Countdown 2019 Report has found that health systems are increasingly preparing for the health risks of climate change, with around half of the countries surveyed reporting having national health adaptation plans in place and having conducted assessments of climate change impacts and vulnerability. However, it is clear that further work is required to build more climate-resilient health systems.
We have noticed a gap between the impact that the environment and climate change has on health and the inclusion of the topic into medical curricula, leaving future healthcare professionals with insufficient knowledge and skills to address the issue. To change this, we adopted the IFMSA Climate-Health vision that calls to have an element of climate-health included in the curriculum of every medical school.
Therefore, we strongly advocate for the increase and dissemination of continuously updated eco-medical literacy to be integrated into our curricula and utilized to push for impactful climate action among stakeholders and policy makers. Learning about how governments worldwide are implementing their climate change commitments will empower us to address our decision-makers using scientifically-proven global health information that reaffirms our role as health professionals in this imminent crisis.
Finally, we are the generation that will be impacted most by the decisions made and policies adopted today. Consequently, we believe that health should be placed at the center of climate change negotiations to push for robust climate action.