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Workshop: Climate change and spinal cord injury: an imperative to act now.

Track 3
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Auditorium - Track 3


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Dr Marca Alexander
Telerehabilitation International

Climate Change and Spinal Cord Injury: An imperative to act now


NB MAlexander is CEO of a nonprofit Telerehabilitation International. This is volunteer work and there is no conflict of interest.

The world is grappling with the climate crisis as temperatures have increased in many areas, weather patterns are more erratic and extreme weather events are stronger and more frequent. These changes are already impacting the day to day lives of persons with SCIs; moreover, the prognosis is that temperature increases will continue, fires will be more frequent, floods will be more common and rising sea levels will result in a need for significant migration. A recent survey of 125 SCI professionals in Spinal Cord Series and Cases revealed 57.6% believed climate change had impacted their client’s health and well-being and 86% were interested in more education. Moreover, 82.5% of participants reported professionals should consider the issue of sustainability in their practice. Despite these concerns, minimal attention has been paid to how climate change will impact persons with disabilities and in particular, those with SCIs, who are undoubtedly among the most vulnerable.
The goal of this workshop is to discuss climate change, consider how it is already impacting people with SCIs and discuss what next steps needs to be performed so that people with SCIs can adapt to the effects of climate change. This course has been purposely designed to include individuals from around the world, including variable climates and living situations so as to best describe the breadth of the problem. We will discuss concerns and solutions, hold a question/ answer session and brainstorm the optimal pathways forward for ISCOS to support our members and their clients as the climate changes.
Introduction: Alexander-Background on climate change survey, show video clip of person with sci discussing climate change 5 min
Around the world: How climate change is already impacting our clients with SCIs.
O’Connell-Canada & Haiti-5 min
Tyagi-India 5 min
Dekker-Africa 5 min
Best practices for mobilizing our patients: What do rehab centers need to add to our educational programming and our support services for disaster planning?
Alexander-A home care team from Houston and a sustainable dwelling in Puerto Rico 6 min
O’Connell-Disaster Preparedness Kits 6 min
How can a person with an SCI live a more sustainable life?
Irgens-A view from a privileged Northern Country 8 min
Tyagi-A view from a southern, less economically developed environment 5 min
What are rehabilitation professionals doing as we move forward?
Katoh-Addressing frequent typhoons in Japan 8 min
Alexander-Sustain our Abilities: Reaching out to climate change advocates and raising awareness 8 min
Group discussion: What can we do? 29 minutes
The purpose of this group discussion will be to discuss the above concerns with audience participation so that future research and educational programming ideas can be developed. It will also be to help people to connect and problem solve about their local areas as to how they can best address issues associated with disasters, sustainability and climate change and the impacts on persons with SCIs.


Marcalee Alexander graduated Jefferson Medical College in 1983 and completed her residency in PM&R there. She has spent most of her career working in spinal cord injury and was the first female president of ASIA. She has published over 125 articles and chapters in professional journals and is currently the editor of the journal Spinal Cord Series and Cases. Throughout most of her career, her research has focused on sexuality and spinal cord injury and she is known for performing significant laboratory-based research outlining the impact of specific neurologic injuries on sexual responses. Her current interest includes using fmri to detail the spinal and brain pathways involved in sacral autonomic function. Over the past 15 years she has also had an interest in telemedicine, its utility in sustainability and the impact of climate change on persons with disabilities. Currently she runs a telemedicine clinic where she sees consults for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital from her home in Birmingham Alabama. In 2019 she and her husband Craig took a break from full time practice to educate people about climate change and disability by starting a nonprofit called Telerehabilitation International. Through this mechanism she plans to start a volunteer network of physiatrists to provide consults in areas of disaster relief