Harris Tackles Health of Environment, Not Just People

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TCU nursing students with children in a gardenTCU Nursing is an institutional member of the Nurses Climate Challenge (NCC), a campaign mobilizing nurses to engage and educate health professionals and students about climate health. Among its goals is to prepare nurses to better care for patients and communities in a world with a changing climate.

“As a public health nurse and Cross Timbers Master Naturalist, I have learned a lot about climate change, how it’s related to acute and chronic disease and what we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impact,” Gina Alexander, associate professor of nursing, said. “The pinnacle of public health is to sustain our planet so people can live healthy lives.”

TCU Nursing’s partnership with NCC will pave the way for curriculum revision.

“Our nursing faculty will use the NCC toolkit to enhance climate health content in didactic and clinical courses in our undergraduate and graduate curriculum,” she said.

Teaching nursing students about climate health is an important aspect of nursing care, Alexander added.

“We expect our students to be leaders wherever they are,” she said. “There is a movement across the nation, and our students may one day lead solutions to climate change. As nurses, we also inspire our patients and community to take action.”

Alexander partnered with assistant professors of professional practice Vicki Brooks and Tammie Williams, and their team was accepted from a competitive process into the current cohort of Climate Health Organizing Fellows through the Cambridge Health Alliance Center for Health Equity Education and Advocacy.

For months to come, their focus will be on advancing the work of RxPLORE™, an initiative that uses research to generate and translate the evidence of nature-based health promotion, in partnership with the Kids Environmental Education Network (KEEN) Group. Together with leaders in the TCU community and local non-profit organizations, we aim to build climate-safe neighborhoods, starting with Southside Fort Worth.

“Every semester, more and more of our nursing students are starting to see the connection and value of nature-based solutions to climate change,” Alexander said. “Some recently wrote blogs about their perceptions of nature. We also hope to organize the TCU community to work toward more equitable access to green space, understanding why it’s so important.”