Climate Health in Medical Education (CHIME)
The climate crisis is reaching an irreversible tipping point. If the planet continues on its current trajectory of rising global temperatures and increasing ecological instability, then humans will be faced with catastrophic environmental and health effects1. In acknowledgement of the interface between environmental change and human health, there is an increasing international mandate to integrate themes of sustainability, climate change and ecological instability into the health professional curriculum. As a result, planetary health is a growing field in health and medicine2.
Climate change, environmental instability and its impact on human health offer a catalyst for redefining the role of the physician as an eco-literate advocate for global health, beginning with undergraduate medical training3. In addition, integrating “sustainable healthcare” into medical curricula would seek to promote “universal values such as justice, respect for all humanity and equality” and can promote critical thinking skills, social empathy and self-awareness amongst students4.
RCSI, in conjunction with the Irish Doctors for the Environment (IDE), has formed a network of seven universities representing all medical schools across the island of Ireland, entitled Climate Health in Medical Education (CHIME) Ireland. The project has brought together academic staff to agree what should be included in a planetary health curriculum for medical students.
CHIME has a number of objectives:
- Form a network of public health educators from all Irish medical schools
- Outline what is currently taught on planetary health in Irish medical schools
- Identify and address barriers and facilitators to implementing teaching on planetary health
- Identify key topics and learning outcomes for a planetary health curriculum
- Develop a proposed curriculum on planetary health for medical students
To date, CHIME has run two workshops with representatives participating from medical schools across Ireland. We used a method known as nominal group technique to reach agreement, a consensus group method characterised by individual participant generation of ideas followed by whole group discussion and prioritisation of these ideas. The first workshop identified the barriers and facilitators to teaching planetary health and the second workshop focused on identifying core curricula content.
The team have now developed an outline curriculum for medical schools and we are currently in the process of developing shared learning materials between universities. Our work for 2023 will seek to pilot our curriculum among professions allied to medicine.
The CHIME project has been supported by the work of Dr Oisin Brady Bates, who recently completed an MSc in research at RCSI exploring the views of academic staff and students on the integration of planetary health into the medical curriculum. RCSI is seeking to implement the recommendations from this study in the coming months.
- Prof. Debbi Stanistreet (RCSI)
- Dr Sadhbh Lee (IDE)
RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are ranked in the top 50 in the Times Higher Impact Rankings for SDG3: Good Health and Well-being.
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- 2. McLean M, Gibbs T, McKimm J. Educating for planetary health and environmentally sustainable health care: Responding with urgency. Medical Teacher. 2020;42(10):1082-4.
- 3. Maxwell J, Blashki G. Teaching About Climate Change in Medical Education: An Opportunity. Journal of Public Health Research. 2016;5(1).
- 4. Thompson T, Walpole S, Braithwaite I, Inman A, Barna S, Mortimer F. Learning objectives for sustainable health care. The Lancet. 2014;384(9958):1924-5.