Public Release: 

More than 100 schools sign on to teach health risks of climate change

A growing movement in higher education responds to a shortage of health professionals and researchers trained in climate change and health

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

The Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education (GCCHE) today announced that, since its launch earlier this year, 125 health professions schools and programs around the world have joined and committed to ensure future health professionals are educated on the health impacts of climate change. These impacts include more deadly heat waves, flooding, and wildfires; greater spread of disease vectors like ticks and mosquitos; and growing food and drinking water insecurity.

The Consortium so far includes member schools and programs representing an estimated 90,000 students from 15 countries on 6 continents (all health professions schools around the world are invited to join). Columbia University Medical Center, including its schools of medicine, nursing, dental, and public health, is the first complete academic medical center to join the GCCHE.

Faculty members in the Climate and Health Program at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the first academic program in climate and health in the U.S., lead the Consortium, with input from an international, multi-sectoral Advisory Council and Coordinating Committee.

"The science is unequivocal: Not only are global temperatures rising, but human health around the world is threatened by the changes to the climate system," says Jeffrey Shaman, director of the GCCHE and the Climate and Health Program at the Mailman School. "Yet today there are far too few health professionals with the necessary training to address this growing crisis. The GCCHE exists to build this expertise."

To enable training of health professionals on the health impacts of climate change, the GCCHE is creating a living knowledge bank of curricular content for use by health professions schools worldwide. This content is made up of a growing body of knowledge and best practices, for example, the latest techniques in drought forecasting or early warning systems for heatwaves, as well as other ways of building community resiliency and response, including medical interventions to climate-related health crises. The GCCHE also supports learning about planetary health, a new field dedicated to studying the interdependencies of human and natural systems.

"There is plenty of evidence that many climate change mitigation policies can greatly improve public health, such as by reducing air pollution or traffic injuries, or increasing physical activity," says Carlos Dora, coordinator, Public Health and the Environment, World Health Organization and a member of the GCCHE Advisory Council. "What is missing is training for health workers to integrate this knowledge into daily practice, to enhance individuals' and communities' action to protect their own health while helping save the planet."

"While climate change is a huge threat, it also presents an opportunity," says Kim Knowlton, a Mailman School faculty member who helps lead the GCCHE. "Our goal is to foster educational programs that can accelerate the development of ways to protect health, build climate resiliency, and treat those in need of healthcare, all with special attention to the most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and people in low-income communities."

"We see every day how violent storms, air pollution, and other environmental factors harm our health," says Michael Myers, managing director, Rockefeller Foundation and a member of the GCCHE Advisory Council. "The rapid growth and robust action of this consortium of leading institutions shows that help is on the way."

About the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education

Launched in February 2017 with start-up support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education (GCCHE) is an international forum for health professions schools committed to developing and instituting climate change and health curricula, in order to ensure a future cadre of highly trained health professionals who will be able to prepare and protect society from the harmful effects of climate disruption. The GCCHE serves as a living knowledge bank for its members to share training materials, news and opportunities on climate and health events, partnerships, and opportunities. Representatives of health professions schools are invited to join the GCCHE online by completing this form.

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