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How are we empowering physicians to become planetary health leaders?
Vancouver medical staff are collaborating with the health authority to educate, engage, and empower physicians to become planetary health leaders in their professional lives, increase awareness in their workplaces, and drive rapid change in creating environmentally sustainable health care practices.

Photo: Dr. Rashmi Chadha, Addiction Medicine Consultant, Vancouver General Hospital, Chair, VPSA Planetary Health Committee

Formed in 2023, the Vancouver Acute/Vancouver Community (VA/VC) Planetary Health Committee is a joint committee of the Vancouver Physician Staff Association (VPSA) and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

It is guided by Regional Medical Director of Planetary Health Dr Andrea MacNeill’s framework for sustainable health care systems and has supported a number of collaborative activities.

Speakers’ series presentations

  • Food sustainability with nutritious plant-based food in the inpatient setting – is a key area of focus and for overall health and impact on the planet, and a pilot project in VCH. 
  • The Parks Prescription (PaRx) – a BC Parks Foundation initiative is driven by health-care professionals who want to improve their patients’ health by connecting them to nature. 
    • Dr Melissa Lem spoke about practical resources like quick tips and patient handouts and increased awareness about how prescribers who register with PaRx can receive a “nature prescription” file, customized with a unique provider code and with instructions for how to prescribe and log nature prescriptions. 
    • The talk was followed by two UBC Forestry lecturers who facilitated a forest bathing session to reinforce the wellness aspect of nature connection.
  • Climate Conscious Medication Management – An overview of high quality, low carbon inpatient care was presented at rounds by Dr Valeria Stoynova, with a plant-based lunch.

Physician-led projects  

  • Reducing the climate impact of inpatient inhalers – with the support of the Health Quality BC Community of Practice – is led by an internal medicine physician committee member working with an inpatient pharmacist. A family physician committee member is also working on climate conscious inhaler prescribing in community clinic settings.
  • Bringing the Green Emergency Department (ED) project to Vancouver General Hospital – based on Royal College of Emergency Medicine work, is led by an enthusiastic ED physician.
  • Monthly networking lunches – include two plant-based options and compostable/reusable containers to minimize waste.
  • A plant-based food article series – showcases physicians and nurse practitioners in VC/VA who share plant-based diet recipes, and is framed around the physician discipline; i.e. benefits for their patient population. These are published monthly in the newsletter.

What have we learned?

  • Committee structure evolution
    • Organizational-level representation was necessary at the inception of the committee to align MSA and VCH work, build partnerships for the future, and to be aware of one another’s work.
    • The structure then shifted focus to encourage more clinicians to join the committee to support and lead projects of interest, while maintaining a VCH representative. It now includes six  physicians and one health authority representative.
  • Planetary Health is one of VCH's strategic pillars. It has been helpful to have the organization working in the same direction to move the work forward at a faster pace.
  • Meetings on Zoom make participation accessible – as well as protect time for meetings and to work on projects.
  • When people really care about a topic, engagement takes care of itself!



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