BMA Students' Conference Passes Climate Change Resolution
Anna Watkinson-Powell has written a great blog on the Climate and Health Council Website describing the run up to the student's passing a climate change resolution. No 1 is for the inclusion of climate change and sustainability to be included in all medical curricula.
I had the idea to invite David Pencheon, Director of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit (SDU), to run a workshop at the recent BMA Students’ Conference in early April of this year, because I was aware of the work the SHE (Sustainable Healthcare Education) Network and the NHS SDU and had been involved in trying to promote sustainability at a local level within healthcare. However, I felt that most medical students and health professionals did not associate sustainability with health or healthcare, and were largely unaware of the important work that is being done and how they can contribute.
During the workshop, David gave a great presentation on the relevance of sustainability to healthcare, and we had some discussions about how we can try to engage people in sustainability and make sure it doesn’t seem boring or irrelevant.
We recognised that we need to frame the issue more positively and talk about the health benefits of changes that also have sustainability benefits, rather than focus primarily on the environment, which many healthcare professionals don't currently see as a priority.
It's also good to highlight the potential for economic savings if you cut energy use. We discussed some of the challenges of engaging students with the topic, and agreed that a lot of this is because they are focused on getting through medical school but also the fact that they often feel powerless so that even if they agree that sustainability is a serious issue, they don't think there's anything they can do within their sphere of influence to address it. So the aim of the motion was really to draw attention to the issue and send out a message that it is something that medical students care about.
As a group, we wrote a motion to present to the Medical Students Conference – included below - and were delighted that it passed with a large majority. It is clear that students feel that sustainability is an important issue for health care professionals. Doctors and medical students, along with other health professionals, can both have an important role in highlighting the importance of sustainability for health, and in lobbying for a more sustainable health service that will benefit both patients and the wider environment.
This conference calls on the BMA to:
i) Lobby for climate change and sustainability to be included in all medical curricula
ii) Work with the Sustainable Development Unit to promote the importance of sustainability within the NHS and wider society
iii) Encourage students to pursue the sustainability agenda at a local level
iv) Lobby the NHS to use its purchasing and employing power responsibly and sustainably.
v) Promote the sustainability benefits of improving community & preventative care.