From niche topic to inclusion in the curriculum – design and evaluation of the elective course “climate change and health”

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Dorothea Lemke - , University Hospital Frankfurt (Author)
  • Svea Holtz - , University Hospital Frankfurt (Author)
  • Meike Gerber - , Institute for the History of Medicine (Author)
  • Olga Amberger - , University Hospital Frankfurt (Author)
  • Dania Schütze - , University Hospital Frankfurt (Author)
  • Beate Müller - , University Hospital Frankfurt, Uniklinik Köln (Author)
  • armin wunder - , University Hospital Frankfurt, Medical University of Graz (Author)
  • Marischa Fast - , University Hospital Frankfurt, German Climate Change and Health Alliance (Author)


Objective: At the Medical Faculty of the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, the elective course “climate change and health” was offered to students in the clinical phase of their medical studies for the first time in the winter semester 2021/22 (any unfilled places were made available to interested students studying other subjects). Despite attracting considerable attention, this topic has not yet been incorporated into the curriculum of medical studies. Our aim was therefore to teach students about climate change and discuss its effects on human health. The students evaluated the elective in terms of various factors relating to knowledge, attitudes and behavior.

Project description: The elective focused on the concept of Planetary Health, with an emphasis on the health consequences of climate change, as well as possibilities for action and adaptation in clinical and practical settings. The course took place in three live, online sessions (with inputs, discussion, case studies and work in small groups), as well as online preparation and a final written assignment for which students were asked to reflect on the subject.

The standardized teaching evaluation questionnaire (=didactic dimension) of Goethe University was used online to evaluate the elective, whereby the questionnaire was extended to include the measurement of changes in students’ agreement with items (dimensions) relating to knowledge, attitudes and behavior (personal behavior and behavior as physicians) before and after the course (pre/post comparison).

Results: Students expressed high levels of satisfaction with the course content, the presentation of the course, and the organization of the elective. This was reflected in very good to good overall ratings. The pre/post comparisons further showed a significant, positive shift in agreement ratings in almost all dimensions. The majority of respondents also wanted the topic to be firmly embedded in the medical curriculum.

Conclusion: The evaluation shows that with respect to the impact of climate change on human health, the elective course had a clear influence on the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of the students. In view of the relevance of the topic, it is therefore important that this subject is included in medical curricula in the future.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberDoc31
Number of pages18
JournalGMS Journal for Medical Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023

External IDs

PubMed 37377570
Scopus 85160298374
ORCID /0009-0007-6620-3782/work/142255892


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Humans, Climate Change, Curriculum, Students, Physicians, Faculty, Medical, Students, Medical, Education, Medical, Undergraduate/methods