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BACKGROUND: Despite climate change being described as a code red for humanity, health systems have been particularly slow in both climate mitigation and adaptation responses. The effects of climate change on health and health systems will not be felt equally, with underserved and marginalised communities disproportionately impacted. The circumpolar region is warming at 3-4 times the global rate, amplifying already existing socioeconomic barriers and health inequities, with particular amplified effects for the substantial Indigenous population in the area. OBJECTIVES AND SETTING: We therefore sought to explore perspectives of physicians around patient-planetary health (P-PH) co-benefit prescribing in a circumpolar region in the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, known to be one of the ground zero levels for climate change. METHODS: Thirteen semi-structured physician interviews were carried out in the NWT region between May 2022 and March 2023 using purposive sampling. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and reflexive thematic analysis was carried out to identify key themes. RESULTS: There were three main themes identified including (1) current healthcare system does not support planetary health, (2) supporting patient-planetary health is currently difficult for clinicians and (3) considering change in the NWT to support patient-planetary health. Participants noted key opportunities to move planetary health forward, with the NWT having the potential to be an innovative model for planetary health-informed change for other health systems. CONCLUSION: The NWT health system has unique features due to its rural and remote nature and smaller population base. Despite this, our study identified some key opportunities for advancing P-PH co-benefit efforts. The identified opportunities may be considered in future intervention, organisational change and policy-making efforts with potential relevance in other settings.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





Health policy, Physicians, QUALITATIVE RESEARCH