Climate and Health Summit

Guest-blogger: Olga Rostkowska, Delegate of Health and Environment Alliance at COP19

How to push the PLAY button?

Being able to participate in the 2013 Climate and Health Summit organized on 16th November 2013 by GCHA in Warsaw, Poland was an extraordinary experience. With visitors from all around the globe – students representing medicine or environment, activists, politicians, academics  as well as institutions such as WHO and HEAL – I was delighted to have access to the centralized knowledge which often remains fragmented. Global Climate and Health Alliance brought the information to us in the form of a summit where 27 speakers in several  panels presented their views, research outcomes, reports and general observations on public health in the context of world climate.

One speaker with his 15 min presentation brought particular impact. Dr Alessandro Demaio from Melbourne, Australia dedicated a large part of his life and career to setting the world free of NCDs – non communicable diseases. Along with his brother (an expert in communication) he established a rich resource of movies as well as other amusing and/or moving materials thanks to which the awareness is raised on how to improve the health and well-being of the society. This is done globally by starting locally or even by individual engagement. We have seen a series of quick films which through either their wit or by touching the most delicate human emotions made our thoughts float towards one question: how to make this world a healthier place?

One conclusion from Climate and Health Summit will have a permanent impact on the way I understand motivation. It’s been proven to me that in order to convince people of something and push to act, you need a new idea. You can nudge somebody to change lifestyle, to become more health- or climate-friendly only and only if you present the message in an extraordinary way – either by being passionate yourself or by making the audience emotional about your concept. It must be short, original, moving and concrete – a story you want to tell somebody on the rush to make him or her slow down and have a second look at what you’re saying. That’s what Dr Alessandro Demaio proved with his ‘literature review’ consisting of short movies designed to make society think of both their health and their planet.

The most revolutionary idea can die in an eye-wink if you don’t pack it convincingly. Reversely, topics  potentially boring such as healthy diet or physical activity can make a room of 120 participants fall silent and listen motionlessly, if only served in a catchy form (e.g. by an animation, game, personal story or even a comedy show). In that case the impact factor could occasionally be higher than from studying hundreds of pages of some academic books. Personally, I believe this is the future of our education – first to get students interested by a quick, witty ‘PAY ATTENTION!’ flag whereas more abundant data can follow such an introduction. That’s how to push the PLAY button in creatures called human beings.

Social media can be a strong ally on spreading the word today, no matter if you deal with environment, health, economy, infrastructure or demography. We should use it not only to complete the so called ‘check-in’ but mainly to alert the good cause. Dr Allessandro Demaio proved extraordinarily this is possible and amazingly effective.

See one of the short films shown at the Summit, campaigning against the NCDs: article + movie


Young delegates from IFMSA Poland, and EMSA
Young delegates from EMSA-Warsaw

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