CIGOH Joins Discussion on Oral/Planetary Health at Brazil Conference


Philadelphia – Dr. Julian Fisher, Director of Oral and Planetary Health Policies within Penn Dental Medicine’s Center for Integrative Global Oral Health (CIGOH), was among the invited speakers at the 4th Sustainable Dentistry Conference in Brazil, organized and hosted by Fluminense Federal University in Rio de Janeiro in May. The two-and-a half-day conference drew an audience of faculty, students, national dental associations, and leaders of local government and industry.

Dr. Fisher presented an overview of the challenges facing the health sector due to the impact of climate change and the overstepping of planetary health boundaries, using heatwaves/humidity to illustrate the impact on dental practice, people, and communities. A key message from Dr. Fisher was the important role of educational institutions to mainstream concepts and strategies for climate change, planetary health, and One Health into their curricula, and create opportunities for transdisciplinary and interprofessional collaboration, showcasing the efforts at Penn Dental Medicine/CIGOH to adopt such an approach in education and research.

“Dental practice will need to rapidly embrace a transformation that enables both adaption and mitigation strategies for climate change, as well as disaster preparedness and response and recovery,” says Dr. Fisher, highlighting the work and discussions at the WHO World Health Assembly on climate change and health that reinforces the urgency and seriousness that governments are placing on this transformation.

Dr. Fisher also stressed that it is critical to have students meaningfully engaged in policy discussions. On day-two of the conference, student attendees had the opportunity to participate in a ‘hands-on’ session, where faculty and students took real-world problems facing dentistry, and with the support of subject-matter experts, proposed solutions. Each group presented their solutions in the plenary at the end of the day with the winner receiving a prize to further develop their ideas.

“It was really inspiring to see students grapple with complex problems — the causes of which often lay outside the health sector,” says Dr. Fisher, “and see how they were able to think across sectors to explore ideas for solutions – that is what we need to meet the challenges of sustainability.”