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The Doctor for the Environment - DOCEN

Project promoted by the International Society of Doctors for the Environment
and by the Italian Society of Doctors for the Environment
with the patronage of UNESCO, WHO & Italian College of Physicians

Introduction and goals

Environmental factors are today being seen more and more as affecting human health.

Understanding this link between the ecosystem and the organism, we believe that doctors can carry out an important educational role for the community as a whole. This means that doctors not only have a therapeutic role towards patients but also a social role by helping to prevent disease and by promoting good health, thereby contributing to improving the well-being of everybody.

This in fact is already happening: in addition to prescribing doctors are also suggesting to patients how they can make their lifestyles healthier.

However, mere advice is not always enough to produce a real change, especially when cultural models that patients follow have not developed sufficiently (sensitivity to the environment is a recent phenomenon) or when these models leave people confused (the mass media bombards us with contradictory information) or indeed actually lead them in the opposite direction by encouraging them to consume products which will damage their health. In this case, the authority of a doctor's judgement and the faith which a patient places in it could be crucial. Especially when the doctor's message is clear, coherent and convincing.

Because doctors could offer an alternative role model for patients and provide an important reference point for the community, the Society of Doctors for the Environment with the patronage of the WHO, the UNESCO and the Italian College of Physicians has been promoting the project "The Doctor for the Environment".


The pilot project has been developed in Italy with a sample group of General Practitioners.

A personalised poster is created for each doctor and it reflects the doctor's personal choices and priorities in the environmental field. The doctor selects 7 sentences from a list of 20 which sum up simply and clearly behavioural patterns in harmony with the environment.

These sentences are printed, along with the doctor's name, on the poster which is then positioned where the patients will be able to see it. The poster thus represents a commitment by this doctor to the environment and in particular, by highlighting behaviour patients can identify with, imparts an authoritative message.

In the pilot scheme, it was possible to choose between two different styles of poster and this catered for different tastes and different situations.

The success of this campaign was assured by the encouraging response from doctors who, in this first project, comprised a sample of General Practitioners and the poster itself through a kind of capillary effect provided a useful means of encouraging environmental sensitivity.


The Project was presented at the World Meeting of WONCA which took place in Dublin 14-18 June 1998 and it met with considerable success. The project will now be promoted at an international level.

Stefania Borgo, M.D., Lucio Sibilia, M.D. & Roberto Romizi, M.D.
ISDE Scientific Office
Via della Fioraia, 17/19
52100 Arezzo ITALY
Phone: +39-0575-22256
Fax: +39-0575-28676

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