Teaching sustainable health care through the critical medical humanities

The Lancet, Comment, 2023

Authored by: Eivind Engebretsen, Ritika Sharma, Tony J Sandset, Kristin Heggen, Ole Petter Ottersen, Helen Clark, Trisha Greenhalgh

This article argues for a more critical, transformative and philosophically-underpinned approach to teaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The standard approach presents the SDGs as uncontested and universally agreed-upon targets, which oversimplifies their complexity and inherent contradictions and engages only superficially with the central unifying theme of sustainability. Whilst environmentally friendly healthcare practices and reducing healthcare’s carbon footprint are important goals, conflating them with the sustainability agenda conveys an overly narrow message about what sustainability is and how we might achieve it. To address these issues, the article proposes a more radical approach that integrates critical medical humanities into sustainable healthcare education and SDG discussions. The Centre for Sustainable Health Education (SHE) at the University of Oslo is presented as an example of this approach. SHE delivers a radical curriculum which aims to raise awareness of the challenges, conflicts and compromises involved in striving for a fair and sustainable future. SHE’s teaching methods encourage collaborative, critical, and interdisciplinary reflection, which helps students to engage with ongoing controversies and debates surrounding sustainability and the SDGs. Ultimately, this approach broadens our understanding of health, illness, and sustainability by illuminating and interrogating the power structures that shape these concepts.

Read the full article: https://doi-org.ezproxy.uio.no/10.1016/S0140-6736(23)00809-7