Climate change and health: an everyday solution

(European Environment Agency, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Angelo Costantino, medical student at the University of Torino, Italy. Angelo 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.

Most doctors, medical students or people in the health industry tend to forget what this job is about. Being a doctor means working for the mankind. For the people. For a single person in a single moment. The rest is all just frame. Our climate is rapidly changing. This is now an undeniable fact as global warming is becoming a clear reality. This undoubtedly affects people and patients and directly affects us medical students, as future doctors.

Climate change means global temperature rise all over the world which can have a devastating effect on people. Heat waves seriously affect the population killing thousands of people per year. It is true that many regions fight annually against heat waves and insane temperature, but climate changing means an increase in heat wave frequencies and intensity. Young and old people are especially affected and vulnerable. Air pollution is also a part of climate change and it is directly connected to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. This just shows how much impact climate change has on Public Health.

Incorporating climate change and health education into medical training might be the solution to this. Unfortunately it is very hard to find time for such topics in most Medical Schools around Europe, especially in Italy, where the focus on marks and passing the academic year is what drives most of the students. This might be sad but it is the reality. Still as medical students we could have a huge impact on climate change and I believe there are many strategies that we could implement in our daily life to do so.

First of all we could encourage patients, during our hospital rotations, to carry out healthy lifestyle that can improve both the patient health and the quality of the air we all breath. This can be done by walking or cycling to the workplace, university or grocery shop. Helping both the patient cardiovascular system and the environment nonetheless. That is exactly how you define killing two birds with one stone. Another easy way to make a difference in our daily medical students’ life could be finding wastes in our universities. This can easily means killing the switch when we are the last person to exit the school library or the bathroom. It can also be done by finding “ungreenly” habits and asking our University to change them (e.g.: changing old lights and bulbs with energy-efficient ones). Setting an example has always a meaningful effect on people. You can advocate for local products, make people more aware of the climate change problems, implement “green” habits in your extracurricular activities, sports or any association you might be a member of. Setting an example is actually one of my all-time favourites, as it always had a huge impact in every aspect of my life.

To sum up, we can easily put in our two cents in our daily students’ life by just implementing very few strategies that can do a lot more than we could think of.

About the author

Angelo Costantino is an undergraduate medical student at the University of Torino, Italy. He is also member of associations like EMSA and IFMSA in order to achieve a reality in which medical students actively promote health.

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