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DEA and AMSA lead Australia’s First Submission to the International Planetary Health Report Card

World Earth Day, April  22nd, marks the publication of the fifth edition of the Planetary Health Report Card report. For the first time, Australian medical and pharmacy schools will feature in this key global publication.

The Planetary Health Report Card (PHRC) is a student-led project that evaluates and tracks the progress of planetary health education in medical and health professional schools around the world. In the 2023-2024 cycle, students from 151 health professional schools in 18 countries participated.

In this first iteration of the Australia and Aotearoan PHRCs, six medical schools completed the scorecard; University of Tasmania, University of Queensland, Curtin University, Monash University, Melbourne University and University of Wollongong. Additionally, pharmacy schools at Monash University and the University of Auckland published their scorecards, with the Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences outperforming every other participating pharmacy institution globally.

In the five years since its inception, the PHRC has established itself as a key education resource and driver of change in healthcare education institutions globally. 

The PHRC project encourages students to take the initiative to address environmental health issues head on and hold their educational institutions accountable for curriculum content, research, support for student initiatives, community engagement and campus sustainability. Student groups from around the world evaluate their institution’s planetary health progress across metrics in these five categories. 

Initially developed for medical schools, the PHRC initiative has since been adapted for dentistry, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, and physiotherapy training programs, reflecting the necessity of interdisciplinary collaboration in the face of planetary health challenges. Its development and achievements have been written up in the Lancet Planetary Health and the British Medical Journal (BMJ). DEA has also been recognised by the PHRC for its ongoing advocacy and development of medical education resources.    

Tomorrow’s Australian and Aotearoan (New Zealand) doctors leading the way

The inaugural PHRCs in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand) were coordinated and led by Dr Grant Silbert, a member of Doctors for Environment Australia (DEA), and the head of Australian Medical Students Association's (AMSA) planetary health arm 'Code Green', Emily Coady. 

Dr Sonia Chanchlani, Chair of the DEA Medical Education Committee said:

“Australian and New Zealand medical schools’ first contribution to the PHRC initiative could not have been more timely. This year, the new Australian Medical Council curriculum standards took effect, ensuring that all medical schools and teaching hospitals include education about climate health risks and sustainable healthcare into curricula. DEA members were key contributors to the development of these new standards, aiming to ensure that planetary health content is integrated into every stage of medical education.” 

The standards recognise the necessary role that medical education institutions must play to ensure that future doctors and healthcare professionals are equipped to respond to the rapidly unfolding planetary health crises and practise environmentally sustainable health care.

In this setting, the PHRCs serve as a comprehensive, student-led, independent, and standardised tool to evaluate the state of planetary health education within medical curricula, alongside research, student initiatives, community engagement and institutional sustainability. As medical schools embark on updating their curricula to align with the new AMC standards, the PHRCs serve as a powerful ‘gap analysis’ tool to aid this process while promoting transparency, student engagement, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

What’s next?

As the publication of the 2023-24 report cards mark the end of the annual cycle, those involved are already thinking about next year’s report cards. 

We are planning to recruit more widely”, says Emily Coady, “and are aiming for ten medical schools, including from every Australian state and territory, plus five nursing and allied health schools…We are already being contacted by institutions throughout the region who have heard about this year's report cards and are keen to get involved for the next cycle.”

For those who took part in the 2023-24 cycle, annual iterations will provide longitudinal data on how their school is tracking over time.

“One key learning point from this process is that medical schools need to improve the integration of planetary health education into medical curricula.” says Dr Grant Silbert. “This is in part due to an absence of high quality clinically-oriented resources that bridge the gap between planetary health research and education.”

 To address this gap, DEA has developed preliminary curriculum mapping resources, and a new DEA Planetary Health Education Task Force is undertaking a research translation project reviewing the existing body of planetary health and healthcare sustainability literature with a view to develop a contemporary, peer-reviewed, specialty-based resource for clinicians at all levels of training. As with the PHRCs, it will have an interdisciplinary focus fostering collaboration from many parts of the healthcare sector as we tackle this challenge together. 

Planetary Report Card Medicine 2023-2024 Summary Report - PDF (link to PHRC website)

About Dr Grant Silbert and Emily Coady

Grant Silbert is a junior doctor at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, an active member of Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA), and a contributing author on several editions of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change. He is currently a regional lead of the Planetary Health Report Cards in Australia and Aeotorea (New Zealand) as well as a co-lead of the Planetary Health Education Task Force in DEA. Grant’s interests lie in global and planetary health, medical education and intercultural and interlinguistic healthcare.

Emily Coady is a final year medical student at the University of Notre Dame Australia and a regional lead of the Planetary Health Report Cards for Australia and Aeotorea (New Zealand) in 2023. In 2024, she is one of the Co-Directors of the Planetary Health Report Card. Emily was head of Australian Medical Students Association's (AMSA) Code Green in 2023, and is the AMSA Global Health Chair in 2024. She is passionate about global and planetary health, climate advocacy work, and medical student education.