Webinar series shines light on climate change in health care

How are extreme environmental events and a changing climate impacting patients? What’s the environmental footprint of the health sector? Is there anything health professionals can do to combat the current climate emergency?

Facilitated by WA Primary Health Alliance, Albany general practitioners Dr Nicole Sleeman and Dr Christel Smit were inspired to create a series of webinars for health professionals,  discussing how their field is impacting and being impacted by climate change – and what they can do to improve it.

“Human health is intimately related to and ultimately dependent upon the health of the ecosystem of which we are a part,” Dr Sleeman said.

“Addressing our global and environmental challenges ultimately rests on each of us and so we knew we needed to start to educate ourselves and our colleagues on the health impacts of climate change.”

Though some of the facts and statistics shared were concerning, the underlying message was one of hope. Each expert discussed not only the challenges of climate change in healthcare, but solutions. They talked about what health professionals can start doing to create better outcomes for their field, their patients and the environment.

Dr Sleeman and Dr Smit sourced dedicated experts for each new topic, with doctors, specialists and leaders joining from across the country and overseas to impart their knowledge.

“Running of the webinars was a humbling and rewarding experience. We have been fortunate to secure some amazing speakers to present their knowledge and share their experience with us, the GP audience,” Dr Smit said.

“They did this free of charge and made a tremendous contribution completely voluntarily. There are very passionate and compassionate colleagues in the climate sphere and it was truly inspirational to meet and work with them.”

Supported by WA Primary Health Alliance’s Great Southern team over three months, the free lunchtime sessions were delivered to not only GPs, but nurses, practice managers, and other health and non-health professionals from across WA.

Great Southern team member, Jo Crooks said the series was a great way to engage with GPs, make new connections, understand what is important to them and how we can support that.

“It was such a privilege to be involved with these professionals coming together to discuss topics they are all clearly passionate about.”

Each webinar in the series covered a different area of healthcare, from maternal health and Aboriginal health to mental health, discussing how each would be touched by climate change. They also discussed how health professionals in these different areas could support their patients through the challenges ahead.

“Ultimately we want all health professionals to be educated on the health impacts of climate change and to be taking actions in their personal and professional lives to address what is the biggest global health challenge of this century. We can all do something,” Dr Sleeman said.

“As a group of health providers, I think the onus is on all of us to actively reduce our carbon footprint as soon as possible,” Dr Smit said.

“WA Primary Health Alliance can help by leading the way.”

The webinars were RACGP accredited, allowing attendees to earn CPD points for attending and answering some questions about the topic.

If you’d like to learn more, each webinar in the series was recorded. If you’d like to watch these, visit our Webinars page.

To find our more about our focus on climate change and health planning, you might be interested to read about the appointment of an environmental health and climate change expert to one of our clinical committees.