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Are we teaching the health impacts of climate change in a clinically relevant way? A systematic narrative review of biomechanism-focused climate change learning outcomes in medical curricula

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-09-19, 01:02 authored by Atul Sharma, Lillian Smyth, Holly Jian, Nicole Vargas, Devin Bowles, Arnagretta Hunter

Introducing biomedical approaches to the health impacts of climate change can improve medical student engagement with relevant climate-related issues, improve the development of medical schemas, and minimise displacement into crowded medical curricula. This paper aims to systematically review the medical education curricula related to climate change, with a particular focus on systems-based biomechanisms for the health impacts of climate change. We do this to provide a clear agenda for further development of learning outcomes (LOs) in this area to maximize the clinical applicability of this knowledge.

A systematic review was undertaken following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA; Liberati et al. 2009) guidelines for both the published and grey literature. Five databases (PubMed, SCOPUS, ERIC, Open Access Thesis and Dissertation, and Proquest Global Dissertation and Theses) were searched for works published between 2011 and June 2023. Full texts that contained LOs were the main inclusion criteria for the final review. Descriptive and content extraction guided the final narrative synthesis.

Analysis indicated that biomechanism-related LOs represented about 25% of each published LO set, on average. These outcomes were primarily at the “understand” level of Bloom’s taxonomy and were spread across a range of body systems and climate-change aspects. Infectious diseases and extreme heat were strong focuses. Authorship analysis indicated that the majority of these sets of published LOs are from Western contexts and authored by researchers and educators with medical and population health qualifications.

Biomechanism-focused teaching about the health impacts of climate change is relatively rare in published curricula. Of the available sets of LOs, the majority are sourced from Western authors and are focused on a fairly circumscribed set of biomedical topics. There is scope to both broaden and deepen curriculum in this area, and we would recommend the field prioritise collaboration with medical educators from the Global South, where the effects of climate change are already the most acutely felt.


The author(s) reported there is no funding associated with the work featured in this article.


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