New Academic Centre Unites Four Health Sciences Faculties to Address Global Ecological Change

December 7, 2023

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A new academic centre aims to advance education, research, and impact in planetary health and sustainable health systems, fostering a better future for generations to come.

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Climate change stands as one of the most significant threats to global health, with decades of research demonstrating both large and inequitably distributed health harms. The healthcare sector itself is a significant contributor to climate change — accounting for approximately 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions – even as its safe and effective operations are threatened by climate shocks and stresses. As climate instability, nature loss, and pollution escalate, there’s a pressing need to equip healthcare and health science professionals with the skills to tackle these complex ecological and eco-social challenges.

The newly established Collaborative Centre for Climate, Health & Sustainable Care aims to address this global concern to pave the way for a more sustainable future. The centre brings together the expertise of four founding health science faculties at the University of Toronto: the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, and the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy

This innovative academic centre will serve as a multi-disciplinary academic hub, fostering engagement across disciplines and professions while deepening research capacity and education to drive evidence-based practice and policy development. By bringing together clinicians, researchers, learners, and system leaders, the centre envisions creating important collaborative interdisciplinary connections within the health sector and the broader community.

Dr. Fiona Miller, Professor of Health Policy in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health expects the centre to strengthen the capacity of the health science faculties to address the links between ecological change, human health and health systems in their work. The goal is for the Collaborative Centre “to serve as a hub to unite diverse expertise and drive meaningful change in planetary health and health systems to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.”

The Collaborative Centre will support and catalyze efforts across and within each faculty to proactively address critical issues related to planetary health and sustainable health systems. This collective commitment seeks to drive impactful changes in policies and practices at the local, national, and international level.

Dr. Ross Upshur, Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, and Head of the Division of Clinical Public Health shares that the centre addresses the urgent need for cohesive action against impending health crises driven by climate change. He emphasizes, “It’s not only about understanding the issues, but actively implementing solutions in our health systems related to climate change and planetary health.”

Dr. Quinn Grundy, Assistant Professor at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, and Registered Nurse, will serve as the Centre’s Associate Director. 

Aligned with the University of Toronto’s ‘Defy Gravity’ campaign that focuses on creating a sustainable future, the centre reflects the institution’s dedication to promoting sustainable practices and advocacy among students and faculty.

Deans Weigh In on New Academic Centre

“We are pleased to serve as the home for this Centre as we proudly work alongside our colleagues from three distinguished health sciences faculties,” said Dr. France Gagnon, Acting Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “This directly ties into one of our faculty’s academic priorities, of ‘supporting excellence in interdisciplinary research’ through our goal of ‘responding to climate change and environmental health challenges.’”

“Health researchers and practitioners are the vanguards in confronting the impacts of climate change on human health,” said Dr. Patricia Houston, Interim Dean of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. “This new hub for interdisciplinary collaboration will harness the remarkable expertise of the university’s top health experts and ensure we are prepared to meet the future with resiliency and evidence-based solutions.”

“I believe nurses in particular have an important role to play in implementing changes that would address the challenges and impact of the climate crisis on our health systems as well as the harmful impacts on the health of global communities,” said Dr. Linda Johnston, Dean of the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing. “As a founding member, the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing is uniquely positioned to advance the mission and values of the Centre through innovations in our curriculum, where we hope to engage learners in meaningful practice change that raises awareness and promotes sustainable healthcare.” 

“We know that the processes used to discover, manufacture and deliver medications contribute to adverse environmental impacts,” said Dr. Lisa Dolovich, Professor and Dean at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. “The Collaborative Centre will bring expertise and efforts from Pharmacy and other divisions together to drive research and education to make a more meaningful impact on planetary health and sustaining our health care system.”

The Collaborative Centre for Climate, Health & Sustainable Care represents a critical step toward a more environmentally sustainable health landscape. As the centre embarks on its mission, it aims to lead discussions, innovate solutions, and inspire future health science and healthcare leaders committed to both planetary health and sustainable health systems. 

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