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Is your practice missing Environmental Health? Here are 3 easy steps.

Is your practice missing Environmental Health? Here are 3 easy steps:

It is easy to add environmental health to your medical practice, whether you are a Doctor, Nurse, Nurse Practitioner, Pharmacist, Manager, Generalist, Specialist, or Whateverist. But before I get to that, you might ask, “Why bother?”

The answer to “Why bother?” gets right back to why you went into health care in the first place, which was to help individuals to live longer, happier lives. Unfortunately, it turns out that on this goal we tend to do a mediocre job. Studies touted by the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association state that the day-to-day efforts of doctor offices have a rather small impact on community health outcomes—about 10%. A larger impact is made by forces that we cannot control, such as genetics. The good news is that some 20-40% of health outcomes are attributable to environmental health, something we CAN alter. So it you are not speaking to your patients about environmental health, you are missing some great opportunities.

“Environmental health”, according to the W.H.O., is the field of medicine that addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person that influence health. This includes the air we breathe and water we drink, but also safety and beauty of our cities and landscapes, as these also affect health. Here are 3 steps that you can take in your office today to share environmental health with your patients.

First, ask every patient you see – those who is healthy enough for this—to make a point of being outdoors for 30 minutes every day. Research demonstrates that people who get a dose of Mother Nature tend to be happier and healthier: lower blood pressure, anxiety, and all that. Some of them will one day take an interest in fostering nature’s protection, and we will all be better off for that.

Second, ask every patient if he or she knows how to properly discard of unused medications. The answer is, “Into the garbage can, never into the sink or toilet.” I have been asking this question of most patients in my practice for about a year, and what I find is that only about half of them get it right but that all are happy to know the correct answer. The trash can is the correct answer because in most towns the garbage goes to city dumps that prevent toxins from reaching the natural environment, whereas medications in the sink or toilet end up in water treatment facilities that are not able to remove medications, hormones, and vitamins. These potential toxins end up in our rivers, lakes, oceans and water supplies. Is is likely that most of your patient contacts lead to a medication change. Your ten second dose of environmental health will mean that their unused medicines go safely into the trash.

Third, take a look at My Green Doctor, the free website that helps doctor offices to save money by adopting wise environmental practices and to share these ideas with your office staff and patients. You will find more than 140 environmental health ideas at www.mygreendoctor.org, plus free brochures for your patients and tips for your office to start its own Green Team. Maybe you are too busy? If so, so ask an office manager or a colleague to look at My Green Doctor. It’s easy for your office to make a big splash in environmental health.

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