A nursing teacher brings children’s environmental health into the classroom 

Fiona Hanley began to think about the links between the environment and human health when she was a student in Edmonton working towards an undergraduate degree in health education.

A few years later, as a community health nurse in Montreal, she was able to get others to start thinking about them too, advising soon-to-be parents in the prenatal classes she was teaching to avoid pesticides, for example.

So when she began to teach nursing at Montreal’s Dawson College, there was no question in her mind that she would have to bring the subject of environmental health into the classroom, even though it wasn’t officially in the program.

“I guess over the years I’ve developed the idea that really it’s an obligation we have,” says Fiona, “if we are talking about health, we really have to be talking about the environment, because the two are so closely interdependent.”

That’s when Fiona first encountered CPCHE.

“I was teaching a class on children’s environmental health as part of our nurses program in paediatrics, and I was using a copy of the CPCHE primer for that, along with other CPCHE resources I could get on-line,” says Fiona. “I had even been to a CPCHE workshop, and I really liked what I saw.”

Suffice it to say that when Health Canada offered to support a workshop on children’s environmental health for Dawson’s nursing students, Fiona was delighted. When they proposed that CPCHE run the workshop, she was thrilled.

“Because of the nature of CPCHE - a partnership among so many great organizations - I thought it would be just the right organization to do this,” says Fiona.

In fact, through Fiona’s collaboration with CPCHE and Health Canada, a one-day workshop was held in English at Dawson, and another in French was convened the next day at the University of Montreal.

“The idea is to make people recognize the link between environment and health,” says Fiona.

“Ironically enough, people in health care don’t think about the environment as affecting health,” she says. “And that’s a big part of the problem with our health care system: it’s a curative system. Just a small portion of the whole health care budget goes into prevention or health promotion.”

It’s heartening to know Fiona’s dedicated to turning that around, one nursing graduate at a time.

Fiona Hanley may be contacted by email at FHanley@dawsoncollege.qc.ca.