Our Planet, Our Health

World Health Day is celebrated annually on April 7th marking the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. Each year it draws attention to a specific health topic that is concerning to people all over the world. This year the theme is “Our planet, our health” and focuses on the urgent actions needed to keep the planet healthy which will in turn help keep humans healthy as well.

The WHO estimates that up to 13 million deaths each year are attributable to unhealthy environments including air, water, and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and increasing ultraviolet radiation. These are contributing to increases in diseases such as stroke, heart disease, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases all over the world, but low and middle-income countries still bear the greatest burden. Unfortunately, diseases like these are very difficult and costly to treat in many parts of the world. Unless you have money, there is often no access to any kind of surgical procedure for heart disease and staying on chronic medications to control hypertension or diabetes is onerous. In the mission field, I cannot remember any patient receiving any kind of chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer. Getting an inhaler for lung disease is difficult; getting home oxygen is impossible. If you have a stroke there is no home physical or occupational therapy, no devices to help you except maybe a wheelchair, but then, nothing is handicapped accessible.

So what can we do to mitigate environmental changes that affect our whole planet and, therefore, our health?

I challenge you to implement one of these in the next year:

  • Get a reusable water bottle and never buy another plastic water bottle. (Studies estimate that every person ingests the equivalent of a credit card size amount of microplastics every week and babies are being born with plastic in their meconium.)
  • Make it a habit 100% of the time to bring your own reusable grocery bags to all stores.
  • Get solar on your home.
  • Buy or lease an electric car.
  • When you go to a restaurant bring your own reusable takeout container for leftovers and avoid Styrofoam which cannot be recycled in most places.
  • Turn your thermostat down in the winter and wear more layers and turn it up a few degrees in the summer.
  • Take the extra time to recycle everything you can and choose items carefully with eco-friendly packaging.
  • Eat less of all meats and move toward a plant-based diet.
  • These are just a few options… choose something else…

God of the Universe,
You have given us this world, beautifully and wonderfully made.
Help us to be stewards of your creation and restorers of the Earth.
Help each of us to commit to one step in the direction of change for the good of our planet.
Help us to remember to pray for those who do not have access to adequate healthcare and for those who strive to serve them.
Amen.

Dr. Jennnifer Thoene

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