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What Does COP26 Health Programme Commitment Mean for Us?

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Event: Canada’s COP26 Health Programme Commitment - What’s Next?

Host: CASCADES, Fiona Miller (Ph.D., Professor of Health Policy, University of Toronto)


1. Dr. Courtney Howard (MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Cumming School of Medicine)

Dr. Courtney Howard is an Emergency Physician, currently residing in Yellowknife, Canada, and a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Calgary. She has done extensive work in planetary health, written several Lancet Countdown Climate Change briefs, and led many research projects. She is also the first female board president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).

2. Dr. Nick Watts (Chief Sustainability Officer of the NHS)

Dr. Nick Watts is currently based in London, England, and leads the Greener NHS team committed to deliver net-zero emission health services. He is a physician from Australia and has worked as the Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown and the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change.

Platform: Zoom, YouTube Live

Date: January 31, 2022

During my time as an undergraduate student, I had the chance to be part of a climate advocacy project where I came to understand that women are disproportionately affected by climate change. As a team of women who are looking to rewrite health leadership and empower women to take on the challenges that have been imposed by our society, EWIH acknowledges the role of climate change in health spaces. We celebrate women leaders like Dr. Howard, a commendable Canadian scientist who is creating change for health systems and communities in the field of planetary health.

Event Review:

CASCADES is hosting a series of three webinars to explore the implications of the Canadian government's recent signature of the COP26 Health Programme Commitment. The next seminar is on February 25, 2022.

  1. Building climate-resilient health systems

  2. Developing low carbon sustainable health systems

  3. Adaptation research for health

  4. The inclusion of health priorities in Nationally Determined Contributions

  5. Raising the voice of health professionals as advocates for stronger ambition on climate change

Dr. Courtney Howard helped to lead the movement for Canada to sign the Health Programme Commitment. In this webinar, she discussed the course of action that Canada must take in order to fulfil this set of commitments.

She started off with Lancet’s Countdown report that listed climate change as the greatest global health threat in the 21st century. Dr. Howard noted that climate change was not discussed at all during her training as an Emergency Physician. Many of us come from an understanding that health happens in health structures but Dr. Howard reiterated that planetary health supports our health and health care.

There have been many devastating climate events such as the 2021 British Columbia heat dome and wildfires and the recent British Columbia and Newfoundland floods. These events indicate that to ensure that Canadians remain healthy, we need to move into a newer system, a do no harm system. This system requires us to investment more heavily in public health to meet climate threats.

While this webinar touched more on the changes that Canada as a whole needs to make, Dr. Howard mentioned useful actions that women - and anyone who is part of the climate community - need to bring into their workplaces.

  • Bucket Fillers: We need to take care of ourselves before we enter into decision-making spaces. The purpose of bucket filling is to improve our social and emotional learning by developing our positive qualities such as respect. Nothing will get done if there is an environment of hostility and disrespect.

  • Powered Storytime: Inspired by Indigenous communities' methods of diving into difficult conversations in a human away and pulling towards a better way. This lends the emotion of the public together towards a mission.

  • Ego Base to Eco Base: It is critical to make public policy without influence from industries. It is important to not ignore the bigger picture and stick with the mission.

It is crucial for all of us to be mindful and conscious of our living spaces and advocate for a better future! As current or future women in healthcare, it is important to educate ourselves on crises happening outside of the work environment because planetary health influences many of the social structural determinants in our daily lives.

If interested, view the recording of the event below:

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