The effects of climate change are already harming health around the world, and impacts will only intensify in the coming years. Heat waves and rainstorms are becoming more deadly, disease outbreaks last longer and are seen in new regions, wildfire smoke from tinder-dry forests reduces air quality, and food and water security are threatened by extreme weather. 

There is an imperative for quick action on many fronts: to recognize and respond to climate-health threats; prevent climate change at its source by reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions; support “greener” systems throughout the economy, including healthcare; understand the health co-benefits of adaptation and mitigation; and communicate effectively about these issues.

However, the climate and health field is still young, with a modest number of experts, significant gaps in knowledge, and few developed educational programs or curricula in health professions schools. To bridge this gap, we must provide the next generation of global health leaders with the knowledge and tools to help protect human health and well-being from climate change and other planetary changes. 

Launched in early 2017, the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education (GCCHE) was developed over the course of 2016, born from a meeting at the December 2015 COP-21 conference in Paris. At COP-21, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health partnered with the United States White House on a special session to highlight the need for greater investment in the study of and planning for the health impacts of climate change. The White House and partners spearheaded a pledge that was announced at the session, which was carried forward by the Mailman School and signed by 115 health professions schools and programs around the world, to educate tomorrow’s leaders on the health impacts of climate change. The GCCHE will help health professions schools around the world implement this pledge.

The GCCHE’s vision is that all health professionals throughout the world – doctors, nurses, and public health leaders and practitioners – will be trained to prevent, reduce, and respond to the health impacts of climate change. To advance progress toward this goal, the GCCHE has convened an Advisory Council and Coordinating Committee of global experts, is preparing resources for all schools of medicine, nursing, and public health to use, and is obtaining commitments from health professions schools in all regions of the world to include education on the health impacts of climate change in their education. Specifically, GCCHE:

  • Obtains commitments from health professions schools across the globe to educate their students on the health impacts of climate change and other planetary changes that impact human health and well-being;

  • Brings together member institutions to share best scientific and educational practices;

  • Develops global standards for knowledge and practice on the health impacts of climate change that all graduates of health professions schools should possess, as well as shares resources that member institutions can use for this purpose;

  • Builds a pipeline of health professionals who focus their work on the health impacts of climate change; and

  • Supports the development of global academic partnerships to foster mutual learning, particularly in under-resourced countries.

The Mailman School invites representatives of health professions schools to join the GCCHE. Together we can position understanding of climate and health as a foundational part of health professional education, and help build the next generation of global expertise needed to create a healthier, more secure future. 

Several foundations have provided financial support for the GCCHE, including The Anahata Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and ClimateWorks Foundation. For more information, please see the GCCHE fact sheet.