UCSF Sustainability Stories

Hannah El-Sabrout, Donavon Sandoval-Heglund, Sophia Labeko, July 2022

UCSF Students Collect Climate Health Factsheets for Providers

Climate change is a process that has significant negative impacts on health. Unfortunately, this is a topic that is under-discussed in healthcare. Second-year medical students Hannah El-Sabrout (pictured top), UCSF-UC Berkeley Joint Medical Program and Donavon Sandoval-Heglund (pictured bottom), UCSF School of Medicine, conducted interviews with Pediatric and Obstetrics/Gynecology clinics within the UCSF network. They asked open-ended questions to better understand whether environmental health screening processes exist and what educational tools would be most helpful for providers and their patients to improve climate health education and conversations at UCSF.

Though each interview yielded unique insights into the current screening processes and health education methods of each clinic, multiple thematic threads connected the interviews. One such thread was a lack of an existing, standardized environmental screening process. Additionally, there was a limited number of educational tools to aid providers in discussing climate and environmental health exposures, as well as how to mitigate such exposures. As a result, most of the clinics expressed a significant need for climate health education materials for both providers and their patients.

Most clinics expressed interest in dot phrases, a factsheet that a medical professional can quickly insert into an electronic health record or a patient note using a key shortcut. To best address these needs, El-Sabrout and Sandoval-Heglund collaborated with Marya Zlatnik, MD, perinatologist, UCSF Health, Annemarie Charlesworth, MA, director, Community Engagement Core, EaRTH Center, and Katherine Gundling, MD, clinical professor emerita, UCSF Department of Medicine, who created the preliminary climate health information database. Additionally, El-Sabrout and Sandoval-Heglund worked with experts in environmental medicine and psychiatry, including Zlatnik, Charlesworth, and Robin Cooper, MD, assistant clinical professor, UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, to create a collection of dot phrases for UCSF providers concerning climate health and pregnancy, wildfire smoke exposure, heatwave guidance, and climate distress or anxiety.

Still in its infancy, the database hasn’t been circulated with the participating physicians, however, the duo has received positive and promising feedback from their supervising faculty and members of the UCSF EaRTH Center. Physician consultants on the dot phrases have also expressed interest in circulating the material amongst their professional circles.