Welcome to this course of Planetary Health!
In this course, we have the aim to ingrate the health of our planet and sustainability within our profession of pharmacotherapy
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge that we as humanity will face in the coming decades. The United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and scientists from all over the world warn for the disastrous consequences of not taking drastic enough action [1-3]. The UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and in particular SDG 13 'Climate Action' and in addition SDG 14 & 15 'Life Under Water' and 'Life on land' are a call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet . In the Paris agreement, the government leaders of 194 parties have agreed to limit global warming to 1.5◦ degrees Celsius [5,6]. To achieve this goal, an enormous reduction of greenhouse gases is required. According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to peak before 2025 and then decline by 43 per cent by 2030. However, current national commitments point to a nearly 14 per cent increase by 2030. This means that greater ambitions are needed to meet the 1.5 °C target . The healthcare sector has a dual role in this global problem. On the one hand, the healthcare sector is facing a huge increase in health problems due to climate change, which includes a warning for a large influx of patients as a result of heat waves, wildfires, malnutrition and an increase in infectious diseases . On the other hand, the health care sector itself is an important contributor to the climate problem. In the Netherlands, the healthcare sector is responsible for 7% of the total greenhouse gas emissions . This includes transport and production of products, heating of healthcare buildings and waste disposal . Medicines, specifically, are responsible for 40% of these total emissions . In other countries these figures are similar or sometimes even higher depending on the presence of large-scale pharmaceutical production capacity .
Many initiatives are underway in the health care sector to reduce environmental pollution [7,8,9]. However, none of these initiatives focus on sustainable prescribing behavior and individual choices of (future) prescribers of medication, despite the potentially very large effect this can have on reduction of greenhouse gases and environmental damage. Moreover, previous educational initiatives within medical education mainly focused on raising planetary health awareness among future healthcare professionals by means of a consensus statement , a curriculum layout  or the development of a game with Erasmus plus funding . Raising awareness about planetary health is of course very important, but given the state of affairs in the SDG Report 2022 , it is now time for initiatives that have the potential to make a real difference. Given the significant contribution of medication to the problem and the lack of available (educational) solutions, it will be meaningful to attempt to integrate Planetary Health and sustainability in the prescription of medication and in the education for prescribing.
1. Romanello M, McGushin A, Di Napoli C, et al. The 2021 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: code red for a healthy future. Lancet2021;398:1619-62. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01787-6 pmid:34687662
3. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022. United Nations Statistics Division 2022. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2022
4. Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations. https://sdgs.un.org
5. United Nations. The Paris Agreement. https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/paris-agreement
6. IPCC. Special Report. Global warming of 1.5°C. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
7. Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu RIVM. Het effect van de Nederlandse zorg op het milieu (The impact of Dutch healthcare on the environment), 2022
8. Nederlandse Federatie voor Universitair Medische Centra. Uitvoeringsplan Green Deal Duurzame Zorg 3.0, 1 maart 2023
9. Health Care Without Harm. Health care climate footprint report. https://noharm-europe.org/ClimateFootprintReport
10. Shaw E, Walpole S, McLean M, et al. AMEE Consensus Statement: planetary health and education for sustainable healthcare. Med Teach2021;43:272-86. doi:10.1080/0142159X.2020.1860207 pmid:33602043
11. Tun S, Martin T. Education for sustainable healthcare —a curriculum for the UK. 2022. Medical Schools Council, London, UK. https://www.medschools.ac.uk/media/2949/education-for-sustainable-healthcare_a-curriculum-for-the-uk_20220506.pdf
These slides contain information concerning Planetary Health for certain medication groups. They are created by the CO2-assistent, a group of medical students from the Amsterdam UMC with the aim to integrate Planeatry Health within medical education.