Long before it became fashionable, the Irish health sector (including the Health Service Executive/Environmental Health Service, in collaboration with other State agencies) has played a part in taking steps toward ending the wilful destruction of our planet.
Irish Doctors for the Environment is spearheading in Ireland a global movement in conjunction with the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. The global call-to-action, “A Call for Clinicians to Act on Planetary Health”, was published in The Lancet in April.
Dr Paula Gilvarry, a former President of the Irish Medical Organisation and retired Public Health Doctor; and Dr Carroll Dolan, a Sligo GP and Lecturer in Health and Disability Studies Susan Carton, established Concerned Health Professionals Ireland back in 2016, in their bid to prevent fracking from ever taking root in Ireland in the interest of public health. The organisation was inspired by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York.
Dr Philip Michael, now a retired family doctor, co-founded with Dr Elizabeth Cullen the Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association (IDEA) 23 years ago, on the basis that a healthy population and a sick environment are incompatible. But it is evident that the pace of action to mitigate and adapt to the coming climate chaos is too slow, as was clearly flagged by the recent special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Contrarians continue to pollute the waters and have managed to create confusion in the eyes of the public in order to maintain the status quo. As Dr Michael, a past vice president for Europe of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment previously suggested, the only way we can ease this logjam is by recruiting the public generally to the cause to enable the taking of appropriate action.
Dr Michael has always considered health professionals could play a leading role in this task. But sadly, in general, their awareness/interest appears to be negligible; and that the HSE could also have an important role in correcting this imbalance in Ireland, if only to save billions of euro.
They could help address how fellow physicians view the impact of environmental issues on human health to help them adopt a moral obligation to mobilise and address climate change, as they treat patients impacted by it.
They should shamelessly leverage the high level of trust the public has in healthcare workers such as doctors and nurses, as a source of credible health information, in communicating the health challenges posed by this issue, and the need to adapt to these challenges, to the public, and policymakers.
As Dr Michael, who built an ‘ecohouse’ with sustainable non-toxic materials (mainly untreated native Irish timber) designed to function without the use of any fossil fuels, has previously said: “There are answers and there are actions we can all take. No one can do everything but everyone can do something.”
Source – Irish Medical Times