Currently, world environment is facing tremendous threats due to poor use of water, air and land pollution, depletion of resources, industrial errors, and overall apathy. The World Health Organization (WHO) records several examples of environment’s detrimental effects on health[ii]. For instance, 1.3 million deaths annually are caused by air pollution; 60 000 people perish each year due to large-scale natural disasters, and climate change is estimated to be responsible for 154 000 deaths.
Upon admission to medical school, some students realized how little was being done to protect and promote the health of communities with regards to climate change, despite its widespread recognition as a major threat. IFMSA-Quebec had many projects on public health issues, but nothing was being done in a sustainable way to educate children and future decision makers about the importance of preserving the environment in the name of health. This is why ‘My Planet, My Health’ was implemented.
Purpose: This project aims to raise awareness among elementary school students about the different impacts that the environment has on human health and about the importance of preserving the environment.
Where? In primary schools, for students of 4, 5thand 6th grade.
Who lead this program? This program is lead and financed by the Quebec division of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations – an international organization recognized by all faculties of medicine in Quebec and by the World Health Organization – which is dedicated to improving local and international health.
Procedures: This entire educational project involves three 45-minute sessions, during which medical students discuss the importance of air, water and food on health and how these three key determinants of our health will be severely affected by climate change all around the world. To make the activities interactive, we developed planned discussions revolving around potential solutions to the issues behind climate change as well as games to illustrate these key issues. For example, in the aim of educating students on the process that leads pollution to contaminate groundwater, we recreate an edible aquifer in a cup with sparkling water as groundwater, frozen yogurt and cereals as the earth, and raisins as rocks. We then add a drop of food colorant to represent the pollutant so the students can see its infiltration into the groundwater. We also have a special activity for each session (such as Air Bingo).
What is the monetary cost of this program? All the fees are covered by IFMSA.
In conclusion, we hope to address the above issues by amplifying the level of environmental health education for elementary school students with the hope that it will enlighten them with a new perspective of climate change, so that they will be inspired to preserve and care for their environment and for their health. We believe the program’s participants will be inspired by the experience, sparking action in the future at an age and time when caring for the environment is at the crux of caring about health.
For more information
Lillian Chen et Aurélie Hugron
My Planet, My Health Project Coordinator