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Sustainable health is an enormous and continually topic. People may be used to hearing the term sustainable in relationship to ecology or environmental issues, and in the context of health, the term is not that different. The brass tacks concept at the bottom of sustainable health is that it is impossible to separate the human from the environment, and if the environment is not healthy, the human can’t be either.
The issue of sustainable health is how to create, as much as possible, a world where health is supported. This begins by evaluating the types of things in the environment that have a direct negative impact on health. Such things that people might try to eliminate include farming practices that pollute water supply and spread disease, pollution in the air from carbon monoxide emissions, and use of chemicals that have been shown to cause disease. Depending on area, other specific things might need to be addressed, like presence of toxins/pollutants/carcinogens as from manmade or natural disaster, and the presence of disease in epidemic form.
There can be other factors in an ecosystem that constantly contribute to inability to sustain health, and which might seem indirect. An oppressive government may make it impossible for some peoples to progress toward sustainability. War is a constant check to maintaining health. Fundamentalism of most forms, providing it supports unsustainable thinking, proves a serious issue too.
The things that people absolutely must have, in addition to eliminating certain dangers that threaten sustainable health, include adequate and safe shelter, clean water, nutritious food, access to medical care, information, and education. Certain people argue that the term is even more encompassing. They may suggest that certain medications used to treat illnesses are non-sustaining, and that healthcare should shift to more natural, easier to obtain, remedies when possible. This issue is one hotly contested.
What can be said is that healthcare systems and delivery are very much a part of any sustainable health scenario. There are many countries where distribution of healthcare is unfair and access is denied, usually to the poorer members of a country. It’s easy to think of several industrialized nations where this occurs, but it’s also important to remember the number of extremely poor nations who have much higher mortality rates due to lack of sustainable health practices.
Many African and Asian nations or areas fall into this group, and lack resources to remedy the issue. In order to be truly self-sustaining, such nations need to be helped toward an ecology and economy that can maintain health for its people. Education, both regular and public health, is mentioned as needed to truly help transform certain regions
A number of theories and practical ideas exist on how to transform an ecosystem so that it promotes sustainable health. These may vary by region. In the US, people would look to continued public health campaigns, cleaning up environments, providing equal access for all to health care, and maintaining or improving public education. Some also believe that the US cannot be sustainable with a militaristic stance.
In parts of third world countries, the focus could first be on addressing grave issues related to poor health care, trying to stem epidemics, looking for ways to provide basic shelter and clean water, and figuring out methods for promoting a country’s well-being through economic improvement and education of its people. Those attempting these goals, though, often find themselves thwarted in their attempts by unstable conditions or controlling leaders. Thus the world is still far removed from global sustainable health.
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