CLIMATE change is impacting health globally, and this should be taught at medical schools around the world. In the field of dermatology alone, climate change is responsible for an increased number of skin cancer cases. As the essential thermoregulatory organ, climate change is also impacting a number of heat-related illnesses, is a huge cause of climate-associated mortality, and is changing the patterns of vector-borne illnesses.
While pollution such as the smoke from wildfires is largely associated with respiratory conditions, it can also cause inflammatory skin diseases to flare. Therefore, integrating climate change education into medical school courses is vital for the health of dermatological patients.
Some universities have already implemented training programmes, such as the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and the Climate & Health Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, USA. Meanwhile, medical students have started to form their own groups to discuss the impact of climate change on health. In 2019, medical students from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine set up the Planetary Health Report Card (PHRC) and others united as the Medical Students for a Sustainable Future (MS4SF).
However, constant training is required for dermatologists to keep up to date with disease patterns that are changing quickly alongside the rapidly changing climate. For example, cases of Lyme disease are now presenting in Canada and is spreading like a rash. It appears earlier and later in the season than in geographical areas that are used to seeing this condition.
Finally, healthcare is a huge emitter of carbon dioxide, and all healthcare providers should be working towards sustainability, regardless of the institution’s field of expertise. In doing so, healthcare providers would be helping to improve the health of their current and potential future patients, including future generations.