Climate Change & Medical Schools

A new survey from the IFMSA shows that climate change is poorly taught in medical schools worldwide



Copenhagen (Danemark), September 20th 2020 – A new survey from the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) finds that climate change is taught in only 15% of medical schools worldwide. In 12% of the medical schools, climate health teaching activities are led by students and not faculty members. This concerned data comes from three global surveys undertaken by IFMSA, spanning 2817 medical schools in 112 countries, to assess the integration of formal and non-formal education elements on climate change in the curriculum.

With deteriorating ecosystems and the increasing burden of climate change, the health of mankind is at risk. The World Health Organization has recognized in 2018 that climate change was the biggest threat to global health of the 21st century. With only 15% of medical schools teaching climate change, this survey shows that future doctors aren’t sufficiently trained to recognize the interdependence between health, the ecosystems and climate change. This leaves them unprepared to address the needs of their patients and communities. 

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. 

The International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) has been advocating for health, environment and climate change for more than a decade, voicing the opinion of 1.3 million medical students coming from 134 countries worldwide. IFMSA has also been actively engaging in global climate discussions at the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCCC) and driving health in the climate agenda, as part of the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA).

IFMSA, as a solution oriented organization, has formulated a diverse panel of students to develop a Climate Change Medical Education Framework with a set of core competencies and learning objectives for planetary health-related topics. In addition, the panel designed an assessment scorecard for students to evaluate the status of climate change and health in their own curriculum, as to spur deans and other key stakeholders into curricular transformation and inclusion of climate change not only in the medical curriculum, but across the spectrum of health professions curricula. 

IFMSA believes that meaningful student engagement is imperative to drive such curricular transformation. The present paper has a pioneering role on this topic and calls on the development of further research to explore the current educational landscape, as to highlight best practices in planetary health education and to support schools and colleges that include planetary health and climate change in their program.

“Medical students around the world are asking their universities to adapt to this changing environment. What we are hearing around the world is that medical students are concerned about not being properly prepared for their clinical practice. We, at IFMSA, are working to transform the curriculum and are proposing a road map”, adds Nebojša Nikolić, medical student from Serbia and IFMSA President. 

In this moment of shaping a healthy post-pandemic recovery, the IFMSA would like to stress the imminence of integrating climate change in the curriculum as a key facilitator for change across all levels of healthcare. 

Link to Full Medical Teacher Article. 


The International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), founded in 1951, is one of the world’s oldest and largest student-run organisations, representing more than 1.3 million medical students from 134 countries worldwide. IFMSA has inspired generations of medical students to play a powerful role and advocate for the most pressing global health issues. 

Omnia El Omrani, IFMSA Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues, [email protected]

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