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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 201-202

Toward green and sustainable educational conferences in physical and rehabilitation medicine

1 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, St. Luke's Medical Center, Quezon City; Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, College of Medicine and Philippine General Hospital, University of the Philippines Manila, Manila, Philippines
2 Disability Department, Municipality of Ituzaingó, Buenos Aires; ReDel Rehabilitation Center, Buenos Aires; Research Department, Interamerican Open University, Neurodiversity Foundation, Rosario, Santa Fe; Fundación Neurodiversidad, Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina
3 Research Department, Interamerican Open University, Neurodiversity Foundation, Rosario, Santa Fe; Fundación Neurodiversidad, Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina

Date of Submission03-Jun-2021
Date of Decision05-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance08-Aug-2021
Date of Web Publication18-Nov-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Carl Froilan D. Leochico
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, St. Luke's Medical Center - Global City, Rizal Drive cor. 32nd Street and 5th Avenue, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JISPRM-000147

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How to cite this article:
Leochico CF, Di Giusto ML, Mitre R. Toward green and sustainable educational conferences in physical and rehabilitation medicine. J Int Soc Phys Rehabil Med 2021;4:201-2

How to cite this URL:
Leochico CF, Di Giusto ML, Mitre R. Toward green and sustainable educational conferences in physical and rehabilitation medicine. J Int Soc Phys Rehabil Med [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 22];4:201-2. Available from: https://www.jisprm.org/text.asp?2021/4/4/201/330643

Dear Editor,

In our time of great scientific and technological progress, more becomes continually known about the pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of illnesses. The expectations of individual patients and the society from scientists, experts, health-care professionals, and policymakers to constantly improve our lives are increasing.[1] Global changes warrant global collaborations, so like-minded individuals sharing the same passion and working for a common goal can come up with better solutions to national and international issues. Hence, scientific or academic conferences are held for continuing education directed toward professional development and patient care advancements.[2] These can vary in format (e.g., meeting, conference, lecture, workshop, seminar, symposium, training, and lay forum), mode (in-person, online, or hybrid), size (small or large gathering), timing (synchronous or asynchronous), and target audience (local or international; professionals/providers only or with consumers), depending on the organizers' goals in mind.

Traditional in-person conferences, especially large and international ones, may be costly to put together in terms of time, money, effort, and various human, organizational, and technical resources.[3] In addition, these conferences also take a huge toll on the environment. Studies show that scientific conferences in general leave a massive carbon footprint and negatively contribute to climate change.[4],[5] Especially, among conferences with speakers, presenters, or attendees coming from areas far from the venue, air travel becomes an inevitable source of a wide range of carbon emissions.[6] Conferences are also a source of a lot of potential wastes such as nonrecyclable brochures, booklets and physical posters, single-use utensils and plastic bottles, and those related to hotel, food, and transportation services.[7] The latest (August 2021) report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that most land areas across the world have very likely warmed by at least 0.1°C per decade since 1960, and the world in general has warmed by 4°C now compared to 1850–1900.[8] The trend is expected to continue throughout the 21st century with even further warming in certain areas of the world,[8] and knowing this should move the public, including health-care professionals, into action.

In 2020, the entire world was (and a year later still is) the protagonist in one of the most serious health crises that humanity has faced. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of life. Social distancing has become the new normal, modifying how we interact with others, carry out our usual daily tasks or work, see our patients (e.g., through telemedicine or telerehabilitation),[9],[10],[11] and achieve our life goals. Life goes on, and so everyone has to adapt. For instance, students and teachers of all ages across different economies worldwide have learned how to connect digitally, when and where resources are available, and continue on with education.[12]

Only time can tell how, when and at what cost we will get out of this situation, but we do know that, historically, events of such magnitude have changed many of the practices of people and societies, potentially generating pivotal and lasting changes. It is up to us to make these changes something positive and beneficial to worthwhile causes such as global warming. Now, more than ever with our experience interacting or meeting online, whether for personal or work-related purpose, it has become clearer that online national or international educational conferences are feasible without compromising the quality of scientific exchange. Online presentations and other educational resources may even become more creative (with various multimedia presentations), accessible (providing education without borders), timeless (such as when recordings are made available on any website or online channel even beyond the conference period), and impactful (especially when made relevant, memorable, interactive, enjoyable, and insightful) such as the experience of the International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (PRM) in organizing a global webinar series with international guest speakers during the early spikes of the COVID-19 pandemic.[13] More importantly, these online educational opportunities are more inclusive, eco-friendly, and COVID-19-proof compared to in-person conferences.[12],[14]

During the pandemic, numerous government and nongovernment organizations also continue to provide useful and timely educational, albeit online, opportunities to providers and consumers. For instance, a nonprofit organization called Sustain Our Abilities (https://www.sustainourabilities.org/), composed of over 30 health-care professionals and consumer volunteers from across the world and various rehabilitation-related disciplines, dedicates itself to raising awareness on disability and climate change amid the pandemic by conducting short online courses, interviews, and video resources on relevant issues. Their worldwide reach, sometimes approaching 3000 in number of real-time participants in a single event, may be an example of how online, low-cost, and less resource-intensive conferences can achieve a similar goal as when done in-person.[15]

Given that knowledge exchange through conferences will remain an essential part of scientific advancements, professionals from all fields, including PRM, are obliged to do no harm and are, therefore, encouraged to rethink the way conferences are organized and implemented to minimize their negative effect on the environment.[5] Some possible solutions include reducing the number of in-person conferences and converting them into online or hybrid events; requiring e-posters instead of paper or plastic ones, serving plant-based food, and avoiding multiple single-use items during in-person conferences; and requiring carbon-offset measures for exhibitors and in-person attendees.[7],[16],[17]

Future research may aim to explore the prevailing knowledge of current and future professionals, such as medical and allied medical rehabilitation professionals, about the impact of in-person conferences on climate change. A call for greater awareness and action about climate change, such as by promoting green and sustainable educational conferences involving more stakeholders (e.g., health-care providers and consumers, policymakers, and various service industries), is imperative. However, the lack of information about standard requirements and implementation measures in conducting green and sustainable conferences needs to be addressed to guide PRM professional societies all over the world.[18]

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Desiere S. The carbon footprint of academic conferences: Evidence from the 14th EAAE congress in slovenia. EuroChoices 2016;15:56-61.  Back to cited text no. 5
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Milford K, Rickard M, Chua M, Tomczyk K, Gatley-Dewing A, Lorenzo AJ. Medical conferences in the era of environmental conscientiousness and a global health crisis: The carbon footprint of presenter flights to pre-COVID pediatric urology conferences and a consideration of future options. J Pediatr Surg 2021;56:1312-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Gutiérrez JM, Jones RG, Narisma GT, Alves LM, Amjad M, Gorodetskaya IV, et al. Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; 2021. Available from: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_Atlas.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 Aug 11].  Back to cited text no. 8
Leochico CF, Mojica JA, Rey-Matias RR, Supnet IE, Ignacio SD. Role of telerehabilitation in the rehabilitation medicine training program of a COVID-19 referral center in a developing country. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2021;100:526-32.  Back to cited text no. 9
Leochico CF. Adoption of telerehabilitation in a developing country before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ann Phys Rehabil Med 2020;63:563-4.  Back to cited text no. 10
Tenforde AS, Borgstrom H, Polich G, Steere H, Davis IS, Cotton K, et al. Outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy synchronous telemedicine: A survey study of patient satisfaction with virtual visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2020;99:977-81.  Back to cited text no. 11
Lockee BB. Online education in the post-COVID era. Nat Electron 2021;4:5-6.  Back to cited text no. 12
Poudel M, Dy R, Oh-Park M, Gimigliano F, Kiekens C, Li L, et al. International society of physical and rehabilitation medicine webinar series – An effective global educational initiative during COVID-19 pandemic. J Int Soc Phys Rehabil Med 2021;4:15.  Back to cited text no. 13
Milić JV, Ehrler B, Molina C, Saliba M, Bisquert J. Online meetings in times of global crisis: Toward sustainable conferencing. ACS Energy Lett 2020;5:2024-6.  Back to cited text no. 14
Sustain Our Abilities. Sustain Our Abilities [YouTube Channel]. YouTube; 2021. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqtL5Ua105tqD-dxwyODdsw. [Last accessed on 2021 Aug 02].  Back to cited text no. 15
Barret D. Estimating, monitoring and minimizing the travel footprint associated with the development of the Athena X-ray Integral Field Unit: An on-line travel footprint calculator released to the science community. Exp Astron (Dordr) 2020;48:183-216. [Doi: 10.1007/s10686-020-09659-8].  Back to cited text no. 16
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