In an era where trust and accurate information are paramount, healthcare professionals stand out as effective messengers. Their credibility is underscored by their top ranking in the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Index 2022, positioning doctors as the most trusted voices for public information. This says a lot about the healthcare sector’s power to influence communities toward addressing pressing societal issues such as climate change. Unfortunately, the vital intersection of climate and health often goes unnoticed.
Arising to this challenge, the Ministry of Health Malaysia, Sunway Centre for Planetary Health (SCPH), Sunway University, and Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) collaborated to provide a capacity-building intervention to healthcare professionals in Malaysia. Thus emerged the pioneering Climate and Health Campaign and Advocacy Training, held from August 28 to 29 at Sunway University in Selangor, Malaysia.
Bringing together diverse voices from Malaysia’s healthcare sector, the one-and-a-half-day event was filled with impactful discussions, expert insights, and interactive workshops. Esteemed figures such as Tracia Lee (Senior Manager for Operations at Sunway Medical Center Velocity), Dr. Peter Gan Kim Soon (public health physician at the Ministry of Health Malaysia and a humanitarian at MERCY Malaysia), Dr. Madihah Ahmad Puaad (Medical Law & Ethics practitioner at Hospital Cyberjaya), and Dr. Amir Hamzah Abdul Latiff (Consultant Clinical Immunologist/Allergist and Paediatrician at the Allergy & Immunology Centre, Pantai Hospital and Adjunct Professor at SCPH, Sunway University) enriched the discourse through informative panel discussions.
The event also witnessed insightful presentations by experts in the fields of climate change, public health, and advocacy campaigns. Shweta Narayan, HCWH’s International Campaigner on Climate and Health, delved into enlightening topics including the impacts of climate change on public health and the unique role of health professionals in advocacy, advocacy and campaigning and the basic steps of planning a campaign, and the fundamentals of designing and implementing successful advocacy campaigns. Meanwhile, Climate Communications expert Tom Clark, led an engaging discussion on effective communication strategies for advocating climate and health issues. His presentation mainly revolved around HCWH’s #HealthClimateActionGuide project. At its core lies the project’s output, the 'Reclaiming Health Activism in the Era of the Climate Crisis' guide, which aims to rally health professionals worldwide to take on a new challenge: advocating for climate action on the climate and nature crisis. Bringing their expertise together, Shweta took charge of authoring the guide's content, while Tom is dedicated to disseminating it globally.
Beyond the panel discussions and expert presentations, the heart of the training lay in a series of interactive group workshops. Here, participants were tasked with conceptualizing advocacy campaigns. Divided into four groups, healthcare professionals from various Malaysian institutions identified community issues and tactically developed advocacy campaign strategies. The outcome? A set of comprehensive campaigns tackling planetary health concerns spanning public transportation, waste management, and energy conservation.
Reflecting on the experience, one participant, Mas, shared, "The training was incredibly insightful and beneficial. It equips healthcare providers like me with the skills to effectively advocate for climate change and health. It's crucial for us to address this intersection, as it directly impacts the well-being of our patients and communities here in Malaysia. I plan to bring this knowledge to my organization and apply it in my setting. As a healthcare provider, I am now more aware of the unique platform I have to raise awareness and drive positive change. Implementing these advocacy strategies will empower me to make a meaningful impact on both health and the environment."
The training's objectives were successfully achieved: deepening awareness and understanding of the interconnections between climate change and health among Malaysian health professionals; equipping participants with the knowledge and skills to effectively advocate for climate and health issues, elucidating the role of health professionals in climate action; and fostering collaboration and networking among health professionals, thereby amplifying collective action on climate and health.
Ultimately, this initiative seeks to transform healthcare providers into advocates for both patient well-being and the planet's health. By enhancing their communication skills, we are amplifying their role as trusted sources of information within their communities. This endeavor aligns with the vision of healing not only human illnesses but also our endangered planet.
To find out more on Sunway Centre for Planetary Health, Sunway University please visit https://sunwayuniversity.edu.my/research/planetaryhealth