While public health advancements including vaccines, antibiotics and medical imaging have translated into a significant increase in human life expectancy over the past two centuries, our planet’s health isn’t faring as well.
Addressing issues that include climate change, pollution and declining biodiversity will require innovation and change on many fronts, including from the world’s more than 20 million nurses, says Jill Vihos, chair of the Department of Interprofessional Education and Simulation Learning.
“Nurses are positioned to be leaders in building awareness and advocating for practices to protect both nature and health,” she says.
It’s why the university’s Faculty of Nursing is excited to become a partner in the Planetary Health Alliance, an international consortium of more than 200 universities, non-governmental organizations, research institutes and government entities working together to facilitate opportunities for learning, collaboration and knowledge development. Membership means that faculty members and students in the Faculty of Nursing now have access to additional resources, mentorship and opportunities to promote planetary health.
January 27–31 is Global Awareness Week
Learn about human rights and gender equality issues. Witness the impact of sustainability initiatives and poverty education. Get creative at hands-on workshops. This is Global Awareness Week.
As nursing education shifts to incorporate this global focus, Jill explains, learners in courses like the Bachelor of Science in Nursing’s HLST 354 – Healthy Populations and HLST 400 – Global Health Perspectives are looking beyond individual patients and considering the many variables that impact health, including geography, population displacement, new disease patterns, stresses on air quality, food production and water systems.
“Focusing on planetary health means uncovering and understanding the relationships between global environmental change and the impact it has on the health of individuals and populations.” —Jill Vihos
“Focusing on planetary health means uncovering and understanding the relationships between global environmental change and the impact it has on the health of individuals and populations,” she says.
One student in Dr. Elizabeth Burgess-Pinto’s global health course, for example, looked at issues connected to climate change – including extreme temperatures and air quality – and issues connected to how health-care professionals might move patients from one setting to another.
When nursing students gain an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary perspective on health, they also develop their capacity as global citizens, says Liz. “They practice from an understanding that all people and their environments are interconnected – that they are members of a world community with shared concerns – and they embrace approaches that address the complex challenges affecting the health of people and the planet.”
Student aims to pay it forward and end hunger
Myra is one of 55 students who took part in a full day of training on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Now she and several of those same students are hosting events for Global Awareness Week.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.