77th World Health Assembly Climate and Health Resolution

How will we turn a climate change and health resolution at the World Health Assembly into local action?

Reda SadkiGlobal health

The Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF) has developed a new model that could help address the urgent challenge of climate change impacts on health by empowering and connecting health workers who serve communities on the receiving end of those impacts.

This model leverages TGLF’s track record of facilitating large-scale peer learning networks to generate locally-grounded evidence, elevate community voices, and drive policy change.

A key strength of TGLF’s approach is its ability to rapidly connect diverse networks of health workers across geographic and health system boundaries.

For example, in March 2020, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TGLF worked with a group of 600 of its alumni – primarily government staff working in local communities of Africa, Asia, and Latin America – to develop the Ideas Engine.

Within two weeks, the Ideas Engine had connected over 6,000 immunization staff from 90 countries to share strategies for maintaining essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within just 10 days, participants contributed 1,235 ideas and practices.

They then developed and implemented recovery plans, learning from and supporting each other. 

Within three months, over a third of participants reported successfully implementing their plans, informed by these crowdsourced insights.

This illustrates how peer learning – a tenet of TGLF’s model – can facilitate and accelerate problem-solving.

The Ideas Engine became a core component of TGLF’s model for turning knowledge into action, results, and impact.

TGLF has also demonstrated the model’s effectiveness in informing global health policy initiatives.

Working with the Wellcome Trust, TGLF mobilized – in the first year – over 8,000 health professionals from 99 low- and middle-income countries to take ownership of the goals of the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) strategy.

This participatory approach generated over 500,000 data points in just four months, providing IA2030 stakeholders with valuable, contextually-grounded evidence to inform decision-making.

Fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation among health workers lays the groundwork for a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable approach to global health in the face of accelerating climate change.

Applying this model to the climate and health nexus, TGLF supported 4,700 health workers from 68 countries in 2023 to share observations of changes in climate and health in the communities they serve.

Over 1,200 observations highlighted the diverse and severe consequences already being experienced.

See what we learned: Investing in the health workforce is vital to tackle climate change: A new report shares insights from over 1,200 on the frontline

This demonstrates the feasibility of rapidly generating a new kind of evidence base on local climate-health realities.

Furthermore, if we assume that each health worker could reduce the climate-related health burden for those they serve by a modest five percent, a million health workers connected to and learning from each other could make a significant dent in climate-attributable disease and death. 

This illustrates the model’s potential to achieve population-level impact, beyond sharing knowledge and strengthening capacity.

At Teach to Reach 10 on 20-21 June 2024, over 20,000 health workers will be sharing experience of their responses to the impacts of climate change on health. Learn more

It is important to note that TGLF’s approach differs from models that work through health professional associations in several key ways.

First, it directly engages health workers across all levels of the health system, not just those in leadership positions.

Second, it focuses on peer learning and locally-led action, rather than top-down dissemination of information.

Third, it leverages digital technologies to connect health workers across geographies and hierarchies, enabling rapid exchange of insights and innovations at the point of need.

Finally, it embeds participatory and citizen science methods to ensure solutions are grounded in community needs and that everyone can contribute to climate and health science.

TGLF’s model offers a complementary pathway to address current global priorities of generating novel evidence on climate-health impacts in ways that are directly relevant and useful to communities facing them.

This model can help fill critical evidence gaps, identify locally-adapted solutions, and build momentum for transformative change.

TGLF’s track record in mobilizing collective intelligence to drive impact in global health crises suggest transferability to the climate and health agenda.

As the world grapples with the accelerating health threats posed by climate change, investing in health workers as agents of resilience has never been more urgent or important.