Published in the December 2019 edition of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (JACM). Part of the Osher Collaborative for Integrative Medicine’s column partnership with JACM.
Editor’s Comments: “This column poses an interesting question: might widespread engagement of the integrative model be a healing balm for the planet? Many clinicians in the field instinctively assert this would be so. The authors marshal evidence from surprising corners to reach their affirmative conclusion. Authors Aterah Z. Nusrat, MSc, DIC and Peter M. Wayne, PhD are each from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA where Wayne serves as Interim Center Director and Research Director and Nusrat as Program Director. Their Osher Collaborative colleague Iman Majd, MD, MS, EAMP/LAc serves as the Director of the Osher Clinical Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.” —John Weeks
Burdens and Opportunities for Health Care Providers
[Climate change impacts] expand the workload of health care providers; but they also position health care providers to become an integral force in educating the public about climate change health impacts. Salas and Hess, in their 2018 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Brief for the United States, state physicians are the public’s most trusted source regarding information on climate change and health.
Building upon this finding, in this brief commentary, the authors propose that the integrative medicine model is particularly well positioned to support health care professionals and health care systems in addressing the climate crisis. Integrative health emphasizes lifestyle and behavior change and a biopsychosocial approach fostering interconnections between mind, body, spirit, and social and physical environments. Fundamental strategies and premises underlying integrative medicine have the potential to directly and indirectly positively impact the environment. The authors highlight three specific strategies: An emphasis on prevention that decreases the burden on the energy-intensive health care system; provision of tools for self-regulation that might lead to “lower carbon happiness” and environmentally friendly lifestyles; and practices that have the potential to enhance pro-social and pro-environmental behavior.