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Climate change is one of the biggest challenges to human health today.

In 2009, the leading medical journal The Lancet  called it the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. And, this is already evident in Australia – a continent on the frontlines of bushfires, droughts, floods and heat waves that are being amplified in frequency and intensity by climate change.

Notably, climate change and other environmental changes such as forest clearance, habitat loss and urbanisation have also been implicated in the spillover of novel pathogens from wild animals to domestic animals and people, including the Ebola virus in Africa, the Zika virus in South America and even the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is causing the current pandemic

Humanity is now changing Earth’s systems to such an extent that our own health and wellbeing is at risk.

Part of the Problem. And part of the Solution.

Australia’s healthcare sector has never been more important nor more burdened and overstretched. Paradoxically though, it also generates a huge environmental footprint, which in turn harms human health.

Whether through waste generated or greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutants and contamination of land and waterways, Australia’s healthcare system is contributing to adverse environmental and human impacts. It is still largely reliant on coal power and is responsible for about 7% of the nation’s carbon footprintequivalent to all of the emissions generated by the state of South Australia1. Hospitals and health services are typically a state or territory’s biggest user of electricity and account for 44% of the sector’s national emissions2.

This has led to a call from many in the health sector for a change to the way health workers think about their role and responsibilities. The Lancet Planetary Health explains that “Healthcare itself contributes to our collective carbon footprint, yet reducing this footprint is good for our health.” The idea of encouraging health professionals and healthcare administrators to take a wider view goes back to an edict first pronounced by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who counselled medical practitioners to ‘first do no harm’.

Changing the Day to Day. Changing the Legacy.

The Hippocratic Oath helps to guide the way health professionals think about the ethics of their practice. Planetary Health expert and Director of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Professor Tony Capon, says that the Oath also provides the opportunity to think about health and wellbeing in terms of both current and future generations.

“We must think about our legacy and how we can bring that into our everyday decision making in healthcare. The question is how to do that without it becoming a major impost for already overburdened healthcare workers. 

Part of the answer lies in integrating sustainable development thinking into the day to day practices of doctors, nurses and health administrators, and supporting staff by providing an authorising environment where health workers are respected for taking sustainable development challenges seriously in the work they do.”

“We need to rethink our models of healthcare, to reduce waste and to change models of care to lessen the need for high cost interventions.”

Caring for people and planet

To meet this critical challenge, Monash University’s Sustainable Development Institute has developed a first-of-its-kind micro-credential in Sustainable Healthcare. At a time when the impacts of climate change, planetary and human health are even more crucial to our daily lives, the 8-week Sustainable Healthcare in Practice micro-credential aims to provide practitioners with the tools they need to create an inclusive, equitable, restorative and resilient health system.

Health professionals, health organisations, educators, industry bodies and leading global experts in the field agree that there is a rapidly growing need to understand how the health sector contributes to the current environmental and climate crisis. For those that want to make a difference and contribute positive change, the micro-credential will provide the knowledge and skills to create sustainable practice for a healthy future.

Drawing from international and national best practice, evidence and expertise, the course will discuss:

  • Concepts of planetary health and sustainable healthcare
  • Social and structural determinants of health inequity
  • How the health sector contributes to the current environmental and climate crises
  • Insights from systems perspectives and behavioural science to influence change
  • Pathways to decarbonise healthcare and achieve net zero carbon
  • Circular economy concepts and their application to healthcare
  • Case studies of sustainable healthcare practice in energy, water, procurement, transport and waste applied to clinical and non-clinical setting

It will also explore ways of collaborating and influence change using behaviour change practices, stakeholder engagement and co-design approaches. The course will be delivered online featuring leading experts in live webinars and videos, case studies and applied learning activities.

Course starts 15 August 2022 with a second intake scheduled for early 2023.

Learn more here

Register Now


  1. Malik A, Lenzen M, McAlister S, McGain F. The carbon footprint of Australian healthcare. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2018;2(1):e27–e35
  2. Malik A, Lenzen M, McAlister S, McGain F. The carbon footprint of Australian healthcare. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2018;2(1):e27–e35