According to a new study by Israeli medical students, doctors in the United States, Israel and Europe are receiving inadequate environmental health education. The study, titled “Our Health and Environment,” was sponsored by Haifa-based Public Health Coalition and conducted at the University of Haifa International School.
Out of the 25 universities surveyed – 10 in United States, 10 in Europe and five in Israel, only the clinical medicine program at Bar-Ilan University in Israel required a course related to environmental health. Only four other university programs out of 25 offered such courses at all, and they deemed such courses optional electives.
Some of the world’s top medical programs, including those at Stanford University, Yale University, John Hopkins University, the University of Oxford, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, all fail to offer their medical students courses that focus on environmental impacts on health and environmental toxicology.
It’s a widely accepted fact that environmental factors such as water pollution and groundwater contamination have negatively affected human populations across the Middle East, and across the globe as well. Stephanie Rieger, the coalition fellow that led “Our Health and Environment,” said that illnesses caused by environmental factors are often misdiagnosed, because it can be difficult to isolate which symptoms are caused by which pollutants, and thus it is crucial for medical students to receive education related to environmental impacts on health.
According to Prof. Elihu Richter, of the Hebrew University’s Hadassah School of Medicine: “From 40 years in the field of occupational and environmental medicine, I can say that the systematic failure to educate physicians to search for work-relatedness of illness and morbidity has led to many disasters which were preventable.”
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Image of ailing earth from Shutterstock