Doctors Propose New Climate Change Curriculum

Doctors are urging medical residency programs to include content about health impacts of climate change in curricula.

Climate change increases risks of heat-related illness, infections, asthma, mental health disorders, poor perinatal outcomes, adverse experiences from trauma and displacement, and other harms. More numerous and increasingly dangerous natural disasters caused by climate change impair delivery of care by disrupting supply chains and compromising power supplies, according to an article from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

For years, Physicians have been giving warnings about the health effects of climate change.

In 2017, the American Medical Association and other health organizations teamed up to create the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, which called climate change “one of the most important issues of our time.”

Doctors worry that graduating trainees face a knowledge gap in understanding, managing, and mitigating these many-faceted consequences of climate change, which are expected to intensify in coming decades.

So they published an article, that proposes a framework of climate change and health educational content for residents, including how climate change (1) harms health, (2) necessitates adaptation in clinical practice, and (3) undermines health care delivery.

Rebecca Philipsborn, a Pediatrician at the Emory University School of Medicine and lead author of the paper said, “We wanted to link the content to what residents are supposed to learn anyway.”

“At its heart, this is about preparing our resident Physicians to provide the best care for patients and to safeguard health in our changing climate. Patients want Physicians to be able to provide guidance on things that affect their individual health. We have this accumulating body of evidence that climate change does just that. It changes what we see and it poses harms to our patients.” said, Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of the paper.

Advocates say including climate change in residency training won’t stick until Doctors are tested on these health effects before they’re licensed to practice medicine. Until then, interest is growing in many places.

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