October 05th 2023

Symposium on "Climate Change, Health, and Resilience"

Current Trends and Good Practices in Teaching, Research, and Practice in the Field of Health and Climate Change

The first symposium on "Climate Change, Health, and Resilience" at FH Kärnten in Villach provided an opportunity for interdisciplinary networking among educators, researchers, practitioners, and political decision-makers in the relevant subject areas.

The program, spanning two days, featured informative keynotes, engaging discussions, workshops, and examples of how existing knowledge about the relationship between climate change and health can be actively implemented in practice.

Renate Windbichler from the Nonprofit, Social, and Health Management program presented on "Climate Change, Health, and Resilience within the framework of an SDG Practical Project Semester." The presentation highlighted how students and partner organizations collaborate to address real-world problems in the context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and promote awareness of global and local challenges. Practitioner partners and educators support students in the conception, execution, analysis, and interpretation of their research projects. Three projects were exemplified: 1) The train-the-trainer model for wildfire suppression, 2) Mitigation of food waste as a contribution to climate protection and social security through food banks and social markets, and 3) Marketing strategies for backpacks made from recycled materials in Uganda. In 2022, the SDG Practical Project Semester received the "Ars Docendi Recognition Award for Excellence in Teaching" from the Federal Ministry.

Laura Schamberger, a graduate of the master's program in International Health & Social Management and a research associate at the Center for Social and Health Innovation (CSHI) at MCI | The Entrepreneurial School®, presented her thesis on Planetary Health Literacy in the form of a poster presentation during the symposium. "In the context of climate change and health, health literacy plays a crucial role. It can serve as an effective tool to create a sustainable and health-conscious society in the face of growing environmental challenges. Targeted measures can protect both human health and our planet. The two days of the symposium proved to be very valuable and inspiring, and I am extremely pleased to have had the opportunity to share the insights gathered from my master's thesis here."

Katharina Weiss, a graduate of the master's program in European Health Economics and Management (Eu-HEM) and the head of the Eu-HEM Green Team, also expressed enthusiasm for the conference: "The current carbon footprint of the healthcare sector (5% of all global greenhouse emissions) contradicts the fundamental principle of medicine - first, do no harm. However, the symposium has shown that it can be done differently (and must be done differently). I am grateful for the knowledge exchange with the many inspiring individuals from practice and teaching who presented their successful initiatives and projects in Villach. Additionally, I look forward to not only sharing what I've learned with my colleagues at Green Eu-HEM but also applying it in practice, as I now intend to dedicate my professional career to sustainability in the healthcare sector."

To conclude the symposium, experts from the healthcare and climate sectors engaged in discussions with political actors, such as Health Minister Johannes Rauch and Carinthia's Regional Health Councillor Beate Prettner, on how the health crisis and climate crisis are interconnected and can be jointly addressed. Several initiatives and measures, such as the provision of a heat protection plan for both elderly and vulnerable individuals and the general population, were mentioned.

The contributions from the symposium will be published in book form under the overarching theme of "Climate Change and Health: Cooperative Approaches and Synergies."