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Open Access Debate

Climate change: what competencies and which medical education and training approaches?

Erica J Bell

Author Affiliations

University Department of Rural Health, University of Tasmania, 18 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, 7000, Australia

BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:31  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-31

Published: 30 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Much research has been devoted to identifying healthcare needs in a climate-changing world. However, while there are now global and national policy statements about the importance of health workforce development for climate change, little has been published about what competencies might be demanded of practitioners in a climate-changing world. In such a context, this debate and discussion paper aims to explore the nature of key competencies and related opportunities for teaching climate change in medical education and training. Particular emphasis is made on preparation for practice in rural and remote regions likely to be greatly affected by climate change.

Discussion

The paper describes what kinds of competencies for climate change might be included in medical education and training. It explores which curricula, teaching, learning and assessment approaches might be involved. Rather than arguing for major changes to medical education and training, this paper explores well established precedents to offer practical suggestions for where a particular kind of literacy--eco-medical literacy--and related competencies could be naturally integrated into existing elements of medical education and training.

Summary

The health effects of climate change have, generally, not yet been integrated into medical education and training systems. However, the necessary competencies could be taught by building on existing models, best practice and innovative traditions in medicine. Even in crowded curricula, climate change offers an opportunity to reinforce and extend understandings of how interactions between people and place affect health.