Healthy Planet, Healthy People

March, 2024

Transforming Family Practice For A Greener Future

Sankha Randenikumara
Chair Elect – WP on Planetary Health

What’s in a name! –Working Party's Name Change

Established in 2007 as the Special Interest Group (SIG) on the Environment and upgraded to the status of Working Party in December 2011, I present to you the WONCA Working Party (WP) on Planetary Health.

An interesting email discussion among the members of the WP took place last July prompted by Alan, our provost and past chair. The discussion revolved around an update of the name of the WP according to the current context. The vision of the WP is ‘Healthy people, healthy communities and healthy ecosystems on a healthy planet’. Many members highlighted that the name WP on the ‘Environment’ did not sufficiently cover the areas highlighted in the vision statement. It was a lively discussion where we saw a significant contribution from the members. While the dialogue was flourishing, the concepts such as ‘planetary health’, ‘one health’ and ‘eco health’ also came into the conversation where their definitions and pros and cons were critically discussed. The majority of the members felt that the word ‘planetary health’ is more appropriate.

The concept of planetary health has been developed by The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health. Planetary Health is defined as the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends. It acknowledges the inter-dependability of the humans and the eco systems for their wellbeing.

Going with the majority’s decision, the WP forwarded the proposal of name change to the WONCA Executive Committee and the new name, WONCA Working Party on Planetary Health was approved in August 2023.
Despite the name change, we continue to keep the hummingbird in our logo unchanged which always reminds us of the obligation we have towards our planet and to do the best possible we can to mitigate climate change!

Watch the fable on hummingbird who tried to stop a wildfire:

WONCA Planetary Health Equitable and Sustainable Health Policy

Among many achievements, compiling the ‘WONCA Planetary Health Equitable and Sustainable Event Policy’ was a major accomplishment of the WP in the last year.

Family doctors need to minimise their carbon footprint in their personal lives, at work, and across WONCA in order to address environmental sustainability. Although WONCA could boast about having a long tradition of offering world-class events for family doctors, big events can have a significant carbon impact. Nonetheless, it is essential to have opportunities to network and meet family doctors from across the world, whether through virtual, hybrid, or in-person gatherings. It's critical to lessen the impact of these conferences and meetings on the environment, particularly when they take place in person. When it comes to social justice, high-income countries hosting events have a greater responsibility to ensure that they are conducted in an environmentally friendly manner. This is due to the fact that wealthy nations have historically made higher contributions to climate change, profited from the resulting economic growth, and have had more resources to adopt sustainable practices.

When compiling the above policy document, the team considered different aspects of carbon emissions that take place in conferences and meetings and referred to many documents to make the policy document a comprehensive guide. This policy includes recommendations for sustainable practices in the areas of venue, accommodation, transportation, food and beverage, waste, material use and merchandise related to an event. It has also elaborated on the importance of carbon accounting and offsetting, monitoring the progress and reporting to the delegates/stakeholders and raising awareness on sustainability. Its recommendations are simple and brief. To make it further user-friendly, a ‘Checklist for Planetary Health Equitable and Sustainable Conference and Event Planning’ has been added at the end of the document. The checklist has been prepared in such a way to make it equitable, where certain actions are expected to be undertaken in all settings (must do) with some optional items which are expected to be implemented especially by high-income countries. WONCA has started encouraging the regions to consider implementation of the sustainable event policy in regional conferences and events. It is intended to make it a part of the formal agreement of WONCA with the regions in organising the regional conferences from the year 2025 showing the commitment of WONCA to planetary health as a green organisation.

Read the WONCA Planetary Health Equitable and Sustainable Event Policy

World Family Doctor Day 2024

WONCA is getting ready to celebrate the World Family Doctor Day (WFDD) on 19th of May 2024 under the theme of ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’. This theme falls in line with WONCA President’s vision for the next two years, WONCA to be seen as a “Green leader” by our Member Organisations and other small international not-for-profit organisations – leading by example in green initiatives.

The WP on Planetary Health is delighted to contribute to the WFDD 2024 with an array of activities to make family doctors more sensitise about climate change and our commitments in planetary health care.

We invite all family doctors to join hands with the WONCA WP on Planetary Health in this journey by being role models and the change agents!

Join the WP on Planetary Health.