Relationships are defined by the way two or more people are connected. For someone who is not well, her relationship with her doctor is not a casual, but an important connection. At every doctor-patient encounter, two experts are present. The doctor brings his expertise; the patient is the expert in her body. How well a patient’s expertise is communicated depends on her doctor’s willingness to listen and see her as a whole human, part of family, community, and a unique culture.
Unfortunately, the American healthcare system works against a healthy doctor-patient relationship. The average appointment with a primary care doctor is 9 to 10 minutes and 90% of visits are for four or more diagnoses. This means for each chronic illness, a doctor has 2-3 minutes to hear a patient’s story, examine him, make a diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment plan. It’s no wonder that patients are interrupted by their doctors after speaking for only 12 seconds. Without effective patient communication, diagnoses and treatments are a result of the doctor’s priorities or agenda, not the patient’s.
We’ve witnessed strikingly similar scenarios play out in politics as the administration, in its role as caretaker of the environment, is promoting its agenda. Despite the administration’s refusal to acknowledge the facts of global warming and the contribution of human activities to it, we have witnessed nature’s terrible power as the earth is warming at an accelerated pace. Category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic, fires in California, the loss of the Great Barrier Reef (bleached due to increased ocean temperatures), coastal flooding. These life-threatening signs of global warming, like an individual’s symptoms, have to be acknowledged before it is reversed.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. . . Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.”
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.–Margaret Mead
Flooding leads to mold and microbial growth indoors, which can cause significant inflammation, pain and fatigue, and results in neurological, intestinal, respiratory and psychiatric symptoms. Unraveling the mystery of these varied symptoms and tracing them back to the source (the body’s response to inflammagens and biotoxins) requires that a doctor be aware of Environmentally Acquired Illnesses (EAI), and above all, listens to her patient. The diagnosis and effective treatment of EAI requires time, experience, and healthy doctor-patient relationships, relationships that are based on mutual respect and effective listening.
The negative impact on the greenhouse effect is making humans sicker with symptoms that cannot be addressed in our current insurance-based for profit medical model. Change requires awareness and individual action: Learn about the effects of mold and water-damaged buildings on human health. Learn & talk about global warming. Eat a plant based diet. Use energy efficient appliances. Weatherize your home. Walk or bike (good for your body, too!). Unplug appliances when not in use.
When you see your doctor, make sure that you’re heard. Take your list of priorities and questions to ask. If something doesn’t make sense, challenge it respectfully but firmly. Engage in your care: ask what to expect, what symptoms should improve, what symptoms can be caused by treatment. Ask how decisions are made. Engage in conversations with your doctor and teach him that you are the expert in your body.
“Change only happens when individuals take action,”
–Aliya Haq, deputy director of NRDC’s Clean Power Plan initiative
Donate to the National Resources Defense Council (nrdc.org)
Join the Union of Concerned Scientists (ucsusa.org)
Share information from the Climate Reality Project (climaterealityproject.org)
Learn at NASA’s Climate Change pages (climate.nasa.gov/evidence)