University of São Paulo: USP School of Medicine adapts curriculum to face the effects of climate change

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The increasing frequency of extreme weather events and their consequent environmental impacts pose a serious threat to the well-being and health of billions of people around the planet. Phenomena such as cold and heat waves, worsening pollution and the loss of ecosystems could lead humanity to face health challenges on an unprecedented scale, including dietary restrictions, worsening respiratory diseases, pressures on mental health and increased transmission of viruses and bacteria.

Given this scenario, the Faculty of Medicine (FM) at USP has adapted its curriculum for the training of its students, including studies that address the understanding and combat of these effects. In the first semester of this year, the college started to offer the discipline Health and Climate Change, taught by professors Nelson da Cruz Gouveia, from the Department of Preventive Medicine, and Thais Mauad, from the Department of Pathology.

“The topic of climate change has already been incorporated in many medical schools around the world and there are publications showing how important it is to introduce it into the medical curriculum, not only in the area of ​​medicine, but in other areas of health”, highlights Gouveia. Taking this scenario into account, the new discipline of FM presents the main concepts related to the science of climate change and the many ways in which they impact human health, highlighting their multiple effects in different medical specialties and educating future health professionals on how they will be able to deal with their patients.

“We firmly believe in the inclusion of this topic in the training curriculum for physicians”, says Professor Thais. Regarding the course content, she explains that “training lectures on climate change and classes on specific aspects of health were given, such as respiratory diseases, zoonoses (which are infectious diseases transmitted between animals and people), extremes of temperature and health. planetaria”, culminating with a visit to the USP Sustainability project, at Cidade Universitária, which promotes ecological actions in an open and experimental laboratory format.

The professor also points out that the theme of climate change will tend to be increasingly incorporated into other disciplines of the Medicine course, in addition to encouraging specialization and interdisciplinarity. As a next step, the Health and Climate Change classes, offered on an optional basis to undergraduates, should become a permanent elective in the college’s curriculum.

This year, FM also offered the discipline of Planetary Health in its Postgraduate Pathology Program, taught by professors Paulo Saldiva, Thais Mauad and graduate student Mayara Floss. The classes took place remotely, with the participation of more than 40 students from all over Brazil, and discussed topics such as air pollution, syndemics, mental health, indigenous health, natural disasters and heat-related diseases in Brazil.

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