Integrating Sustainable Healthcare and Planetary Health into the curriculum at Lancaster Medical School

Felicity Connolly's picture

Collaboration welcome! In the hope that it might aid colleagues who are trying to do the same, I wanted to share the work we have been doing at Lancaster Medical School on integrating Planetary Health and Sustainable Healthcare into our curriculum. This has been a large piece of work, where we have threaded many of the themes through teaching which already existed, as well as developing two new modules in year 3 and 5. This fits with our spiral curriculum approach.

Year 1 and 2 – we have integrated several new environmental learning objectives into existing PBL Scenarios to introduce the subject and concepts, linked to Population Health and Professional Practice, Values and Ethics domains of the curriculum.

Year 2 – we have added a climate change angle to the Health Inequalities module where students analyse a postcode area for health inequalities of vulnerable groups.

Year 3 – We have introduced a new half day module on Planetary Health and Sustainable Healthcare during our Managing Long Term Conditions Module. This is delivered by GPs who were already involved in small group teaching, and involves a plenary lecture and small group workshops discussing five different scenarios including:

  1. Climate Change Advocacy
  2. Health benefits of a Low carbon Lifestyle
  3. Planetary Health and Sustainable Development Goals
  4. Principles of Sustainable Clinical Practice
  5. Waste in the Clinical Environment

Year 5 – We have introduced a 1.5 hour small group session on Planetary Health and Sustainable Healthcare which includes a brief introductory presentation, followed by facilitated group discussion of advocacy, waste, sustainable clinical practice. This is part of the General Practice and Primary Care module.

I presented the changes we have made to our curriculum at Lancaster Medical School Education Day to an audience of our clinical teachers and placement supervisors from primary and secondary care. The hope was to engage clinicians in developing sustainable clinical practice in their own specialities, with the aim of providing our undergraduates with authentic examples, or discussions of challenges, during student placements.

It’s been a significant piece of work, which is still ongoing!

What has helped drive this forward?

  1. Having faculty staff leading on this who are familiar with the overall curriculum
  2. GMC OFG2018 helped to validate the changes to senior members of faculty.
  3. Thanks to CSH Education day which I attended in 2018: ideas and shared practice was brilliant.
  4. Buy-in and engagement from the wider faculty here at Lancaster has been good overall
  5. Teaching time located in the Primary Care and GP course coincided with the timing of new RCGP Curriculum recommendations for undergraduate teaching relating to sustainable healthcare.
  6. No new staff required for workshops (we integrated it into GP teaching days).

What have been the challenges?

  1. Large piece of work to develop the resources and teaching materials, as well as taking on additional teaching delivery.
  2. I have taken a lead on this, and am not an expert! I have felt out of my depth at times.
  3. Involving our GP teachers in delivering content they do not feel familiar with.
  4. Finding space in the curriculum.
  5. Division of labour across faculty for assessment writing and wider ongoing development work.

Any help with how to evaluate and assess the new teaching would be much appreciated! I’m keen to collaborate and learn from others, as the work I have done so far has focussed on integrating the new material in teaching, and I realise there is a significant amount more to do....

I hope that this is helpful to others. I’m very keen to network and share with colleagues who are trying to do the same. Look forward to hearing of others’ experiences….


Integrating Sustainable Healthcare and Planetary Health curricul

SanYuMay Tun's picture

This is absolutely fantastic! It chimes so well with the recommendations in Tun MS. 2019. Fulfilling a new obligation: Teaching and learning of sustainable healthcare in the medical education curriculum. Medical Teacher. DOI: 10.1080/0142159X.2019.1623870

Could we collaborate on a paper or abstract on how this has worked out? and I'd also be able to contribute to specific teaching delivery, faculty development, assessment or evaluation :)


Integrating Sustainable Healthcare and Planetary Health into the

Felicity Connolly's picture

Definitely! I read your paper when it was forwarded by the MSC, and it was really helpful to inform the process of doing this as well :) Would be keen to liaise further about it all. Thanks for your offer.


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