PHABC Summer School - Promoting Health and Sustainability: The Case of Climate Change and Energy Use

Sep. 9, 2016 in Healthy Communities/Cities

Photo of BCHC Board Member Trevor Hancock - a keynote speaker at the 2016 PHABC Sumemr School.

On July 11-12th, BC Healthy Communities’ (BCHC) practicum student, Katie Howatson, had the opportunity to volunteer at the Public Health Association of British Columbia’s (PHABC) Summer School.  By using video conferencing technology, participants were able to connect and engage in this renowned event from multiple locations across BC including at the University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, University of Northern BC and University of British Columbia – Okanagan.

The aim of this year’s summer school, titled, Promoting Health and Sustainability: The Case of Climate Change and Energy Use, was, “ . . . to bring together individuals involved in the delivery of public health activities to examine the application of the Ottawa Charter as related to climate change issues and the implications for health and health equity actions at the individual, health care system and community level”.  To reach this goal, the Summer School delivered a mix of keynote presentations, case studies and hands-on activities. 

"Public health action is addressing climate change in a comprehensive way, the situation is far from hopeless." - Katie Howatson

BCHC Executive Director, Jodi Mucha, and BCHC Board Member, Trevor Hancock (pictured above), delivered a keynote presentation titled ‘Applying the Ottawa Charter to Climate Change’.  Trevor began the presentation by describing the Ottawa Charter and its importance to the field of Health Promotion.  As the first World Health Organization (WHO) document that identified a stable ecosystem and sustainable resources as a prerequisite for health, the Ottawa Charter focuses on engagement, empowerment and equity, a starting point from which the growth of the Healthy Communities Movement began.  

Jodi Mucha delivered the second half of the presentation, which provided concrete examples of how, through each of the five strategies outlined by the Ottawa Charter, BCHC works toward stable ecosystems and sustainable resources for communities across BC.

Several other keynote presentations addressed “Climate Change and Health in BC” from various perspectives before the focus of the talks narrowed to three action areas: 

  1. Clean / low carbon energy systems
  2. Low meat / sustainable diets; and
  3. Sustainable community design.  

These three action areas became the discussion topics for the group breakout sessions, where participants from each site split into groups of five-eight people and were given 90 minute sessions to discuss each of the three topics. According to Katie, these sessions provided incredibly rich discussion about ‘the problem’ of each topic, possible ‘solutions’ to each problem as well as shared examples of local action that is already being taken.

Before the breakout sessions, a mapping seminar was held where participants were taught how to use Google Tour in order to use maps to tell the story of climate change. Groups from the various sites were encouraged to discuss the use of this tool to document local action (organizations, initiatives, policies etc.) on the three action areas.  These interactive maps were later shared across the sites, though some groups decided to use alternate forms of sharing such as sticky note maps or PowerPoint.

A major take-away from the Summer School was not only learning about what needs to be done in the future to affect climate change on a large scale, but also learning about local and province wide organizations/initiatives that are already working to create such change. 

Katie commented about her experience, “Walking away from the summer school, I felt encouraged; a large topic like climate change can feel overwhelming and hopeless at times, but learning about both high-level, governmental priority shifts such as the National Food Policy, as well as local, grass-roots initiatives such as the Capital Region Food & Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (CR-FAIR), helped me to see that public health action is addressing climate change in a comprehensive way and that the situation is far from hopeless.” 

Credit: Katie Howatson