WONCA Working Party: Environment


The previous WONCA Special Interest Group (SIG) on the Environment was upgraded to the status of Working Party, in December, 2011.

Our vision is healthy people, healthy communities and healthy ecosystems on a healthy planet. We welcome interested family physicians / general practitioners or students. You are welcome to join our discussion group; or participate in any of our ongoing projects; or attend workshops on environmental health at WONCA conferences.

Convenor / Chair

Dr Enrique Barros (Brazil)

Enrique currently lives and practices in a rural town of 6000 people in the mountains in southern Brazil - Santa Maria do Herval. He is also professor at Universidade de Caxias do Sul, and takes interns and residents on placements in my community practice.

He first became involved while doing research on climate change and primary care in 2008 - later recognized by the Global Forum for Health Research and The Lancet (more here).

Read more about Enrique (WONCA News featured doctor September 2015)

email chair

Co-Convenor or other office bearers

Dr Grant Blashki (Australia)

Immediate Past Chair Working Party on the Environment

Grant is a practicing GP and an Associate Professor at the Nossal Institute for Global Health; Head of the Health and Equity Theme at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne; and an honorary lecturer at Kings College London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and has served as an examiner in the fellowship exam panel. He is also a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

His two themes of research are; 1) primary mental health care and, 2) climate change and health. He has co-authored over 80 publications in peer reviewed journals, 30 peer reviewed conference abstracts, 20 government/policy reports, and is lead editor of the text book General Practice Psychiatry which has been translated into Italian.

Previously, he was the lead developer of the Monash University/ University of Melbourne Masters of General Practice Psychiatry for which he received a Monash University Silver Jubilee Prize for Teaching. He has been actively engaged with community work including as Board Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, a clinical advisor to Beyondblue; as a mentor in the Al Gore Climate Leadership Project; as a cofounder of Doctors for the Environment Australia; as a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Climate Institute, He was a participant in the Australia 2020 summit. 

In 2008, he was a co-recipient of the Fundraisers Institute of Australia’s Major Grants fundraising award for philanthropic work. In 2009, he was co recipient of an Australian Evaluation Society Award for Excellence in Evaluation in relation to evaluation of major primary health care reforms in Australia.

Dr Alan Abelsohn (Canada)

Alan Abelsohn is a family physician in group practice in Toronto, Canada. He is Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and lectures at the Centre for Environment, at the University of Toronto. He also works with Health Canada as physician-epidemiologist in the Air Quality Health Index program.

He graduated from the University of Cape Town Medical School, studied family medicine at the University of Toronto, and obtained a Diploma in Environmental Health at McMaster University in 1997. He is co-author of: Addressing the health effects of climate change: Family physicians are key, and A Curriculum in environmental health for family medicine for the Ontario College of Family Physicians, and a number of publications on environmental health, including the series Identifying and managing adverse environmental health effects in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Executive Members

Chair: Enrique Falceto de Barros

Vice-Chair: Alice McGushin

Provost: Alan Abelsohn

Regional Co-Chairs:

Africa - Henry Lawson
Asia Pacific -Tammra Warby
East Mediterranean - Unfilled
Europe - Ralph Guggenheim
Iberoamerica - Paola Rava Dellapiane
North America - Courtney Howard
South Asia - Sankha Radenikumara

Vision and Mission of WONCA Working Party on Environment


Healthy people, communities and ecosystems on a healthy planet.


To lead Family Doctors in protecting the health of patients and communities from the impacts of environmental hazards and threats, and promote environmental and planetary health at both the local and the planetary level.

Objectives of the WONCA Working Party on Environment

Within a value system that promotes evidence based, ethical and equitable practice as Family Doctors, we will:
- Remember the fact that no life is possible without an environment which enables and favors it, that the planetary environment is threatened in many ways, including present and potential adverse effects on life and health, and that it is therefore in humanity’s vital interest to urgently act in order to preserve it for us and for future generations;
- Represent a view which promotes this understanding of planetary health, while keeping the responsibility for our patients in mind;
- Strive to better understand how the environment affects human health;
- Educate our members, other physicians and health professionals, the public, and policy-makers about environmental health issues;
- Share our concerns with patients, while emphasizing health and health promotion.
- Promote and develop best practices in planetary health in family medicine.
- Collaborate both within WONCA and with other organizations that share our concerns and values;
- Support and guide family doctors and other health professionals to advocate for healthy people, communities, ecosystems and a healthy planet;
- Promote healthcare and other activities of WONCA and its members that is environmentally sustainable, striving towards carbon neutrality and minimizing waste and use of water resources.

Our objectives will be implemented through:

  1. Sharing of resources:
    Educational materials and other resources
    Interesting articles on environmental health
  2. Sharing activities we are involved in, in our own departments or practices
  3. Discussions on topics on environmental health relevant to Family Doctors
    - clinical practice
    - research
    - community involvement
  4. Project development
    - educating family physicians
    - curriculum development
    - research

 We also hope to run educational sessions and meetings at as many WONCA regional meetings as we can, and to collaborate with other WONCA Working Parties and SIGs.




Signatory to the Doha Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing

“Family Doctors in the Field - stories from environmental family doctors from across the globe”

Grant Blashki, Alan Abelsohn, Margot Parkes and Karen Flegg are delighted to announce our upcoming book, "Family Doctors in the Field -Stories from environmental family doctors from across the globe", which is to be launched at the WONCA Europe conference in Lisbon, in July 2014. The aim of the book is to profile ordinary family doctors around the world who are interested or involved in environmental issues. Launch of  Family Doctors in the Field

Greening the doctors’ office/ clinic
We plan to develop a guide to “greening the doctors’ office” for distribution through WONCA, and national colleges. We can use existing materials, including those from the Doctors for the Environment Australia and the Ontario College of Family Physicians. Alan Abelsohn discussed this, in Mumbai.

Climate change and health; The role of the family doctor
We plan to develop a user-friendly PowerPoint presentation, with speaker notes and references that can be used by colleagues in WONCA and beyond. We will develop a network of interested family doctors, in collaboration with other climate change and health medical groups. 

Patients views on GP’s promoting Sustainability
Funded by the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, this s a study of patients’ views on the promotion of sustainability priniciples by GPs. It will be undertaken during 2012, in Australia, and it is hoped that the study will also be piloted in Canada. 

Meetings attended and conducted
Grant Blashki held a very successful conference in Melbourne in October, on Creating Healthy Sustainable Societies. Alan Abelsohn is running a series of workshops on climate change and the family doctor in Canada, at national and provincial family medicine conferences, and gave a plenary on climate change and health at WONCA SAR 2011, in Mumbai.

Diagnostic imaging and radiation safety
Endorsed WONCA policy: Justification and appropriateness in radiological diagnostics 2016

Occupational health
Ezequiel Lopez is now chairing the WONCA SIG on Workers Health

Our survey on the attitudes of family doctors towards climate change has been completed. The survey results will be analyzed and written up for publication. The group working on this are Grant Blashki and Claudio Villella (Australia) as leads, Gerald Koh Choon Huat (Singapore) and Alan Abelsohn (Canada).


Most important activities 2007–2010 triennium Key future activities for coming triennium
  1. Conduct workshops at WONCA 
  2. Proposal to Executive & support the Executive in writing a WONCA Statement on Climate change
  3. Write articles (see report 2011)
  1. Articles for publication
  2. Projects in climate change, greening the doctors’ office and children’s environmental health
  3. Research on climate change 

  the working party meeting in Cancun

Relevant Resources

WHO Children’s Environmental Health Training Modules.

We would like to promote training based on the WHO Training Package for Health Care Providers on Children's Health and the Environment in collaboration with ISDE and WHO. Alan Abelsohn met, by conference call, with Ruth Etzel and her support staff, of the Children’s Environmental Health program, Public Health and the Environment, WHO, in January, and we continue to look for mutual opportunities to teach these modules.

What can family doctors do?

Climate change is the most pressing public health challenge of our times. What is the role of family doctors? First ideas come from an article from Australian Family Physician, and a report from the Ontario College of family Physicians in Canada.

Climate change and health. What can family doctors do? (PDF format)
Addressing the Health Effects of Climate Change: Family Physicians Are Key - The Ontario College of Family Physicians (PDF format)

Family doctors can set an example to their communities, and help the environment, by "greening" their offices, and reducing their ecological footprint. We include two useful resources to help you get started in your office or clinic:

Green Clinic Brochure (PDF format)
Des solutions vertes au bureau (français - PDF format)
Greening your Office Brochure (English - PDF format)

Key links on the environment for family doctors

- International Society of Doctors for the Environment ISDE
- College of Family Physicians of Canada, Environmental Health Committee

- Ontario College of Family Physicians, Environmental Health Committee
- Climate and Health Council

E-course on carcinogens
Curso en línea

An on-line course, on taking an occupational and environmental exposure history, related to carcinogens, which is appropriate for use in training in primary care. It is available in English, French and Spanish.