I am very honoured that my good friend Dr Tammra Warby, an Australian family doctor, has written a guest blog about the emerging field of planetary health. Planetary health seeks to address human health and the stability of ecological systems in tandem. Defined as “characterising the linkages between human-caused disruptions of earth’s natural systems and resulting impacts on public health.” While a lot of people may think that climate change is important because of its impacts on the environment, its the potential impacts on human health, happiness and survival that make it personal! Here’s Tammra’s story, which is a call to all of us to look after our planet and look after ourselves at the same time :
Photo credit: The Lakes area near Salzburg, Tammra Warby
I was part of the Emergency team at Ipswich hospital that responded to the massive floods of Queensland in 2010/2011. As the impact spread, I witnessed first hand the effect of the environment on human health. Tragic deaths were followed by a wave of deterioration due to lack of access to crucial medicines caused by road and pharmacy closures, and failure of crucial home medical equipment due to lack of electricity. Injuries and infections during the clean up and a huge spike in mental health issues followed.
According to the CSIRO MegaTrends report, as the next generation grows up they will be affected by water scarcity and food security, both of which depend on the health of the ecosystem around us. We can also already see the increase in number of asthma warnings due to air quality, following the Thunderstorm asthma event in 2016, with it’s 3000% increase in emergency asthma presentations. The Planetary Health Alliance (co-housed with Harvard University) is unravelling the links between accelerated environmental change and it’s effect on human health. Other efforts to introduce change include ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health program, and the Australian Climate and Health Alliance.
The fact is we and our kids all deserve to breath clean air and drink clean water. We are so lucky that as a race we are more connected through technology and information than ever before, with a great ability to effect change together. It can feel like no one else is doing anything, but one of the simplest things you can do for your current health and your children’s future health is reduce your meat, and especially red meat consumption, which in turn will lessen the stress on our limited natural resources and benefit us all.
I plan to meet with the Outreach Coordinator of the Planetary Health Alliance next year when I’m in Boston to speak at the Harvard University Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare conference. Until then you can follow the conversation on Twitter @DrTammraWarby.
Dr Tammra Warby is an Australian family doctor with a keen interest in the current and future health of people and the planet.