Climate change and health: Raising awareness is the key for greener actions

European Commission 2017

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms. Kristiana Nikolova, a fourth year medical student from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.  She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Nine months ago, the winter came to Denmark. People sought indoors, turned on the heating and curled up underneath blankets. The winter had set in just a month after Denmark had one of its hottest late summers. “It is probably due to the climate change”, you hear people say, mentioning the climate change words without a worry. And this is how it goes – our everyday life continues, all the while the climate changes worsen.

My friend and I decided to go and watch a movie. A free movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It was a documentary of some kind. It had something to do about climate change. We leaned back in the red velvet cinema chairs, covered with our winter coats, and we had no thoughts of what was expecting us. An hour later, I left the movie theater speechless, scared, and worried. Why was it that, suddenly, something I already knew about, something I was listening to on the news every day could leave such a huge impact on me? It made me start thinking, a lot of thinking.

The following day I was sitting in the library, trying to concentrate on my six-inch physiology book. I was trying to chase away my concerns about climate changes because what could I possibly do?

I started to engage more in the topic, and not before long, I was buying sustainable Christmas presents. I got a feeling of satisfaction – I did something. However, was the fact of me living a more sustainable life the solution to stop the climate changes? After all, I was just a very small piece taken out of a big puzzle.

At the University, I was sharing my concerns with fellow students. We started discussing how climate changes would affect us, and how we could engage more medical students in the topic. Then, we started researching if there was any correlation between climate changes and health. And indeed, there is. It is evident that high temperatures, among others, cause mass migration, the consequences of which are transmission of infections, poverty, leading to hunger and starvation, and pollution causing respiratory diseases, to name just a few.

Nine months later, together with a fellow student, we created the student activity group called International Medical Cooperation Committee (IMCC) Earth. This activity group aims to raise the awareness of our fellow students on the impact of climate change not only on our planet, but also on our health. In our activity group, we take initiatives to make our environment more sustainable. We plan talks on sustainability and impact of climate change.

We believe that the way to action starts with the individual person, and therefore we wish to increase the awareness of our fellow students as to why is it we talk about climate change, what does this in fact mean for humans, and how it reflects on our health.

With raised awareness, we as a group have a stronger voice to make politicians make greener decisions and solutions. One can only do so much, but together we can do a lot.

About the author

Kristiana Nikolova has just finished her third year of medical studies at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Before that, she had studied biomedicine for four years. However, she found medicine and providing health-care to patients to be her real vocation. When she becomes a doctor, she dreams of working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MFS). Kristiana is the national activity leader of the student activity group International Medical Cooperation Committee (IMCC) Earth. She is also a member of the board of IMCC PIT (Electives in the Tropics) and is interested in infectious diseases.

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