Future Medicine is Green Medicine
Future Medicine is Green Medicine
By: Dr. Tracy Hackett (DAOM, AP)
People born in the nineties and aughts are quickly realizing that they must actively become stewards of the thin outer skin of the earth’s surface that is our biome, our collective home. By protecting the environment, we protect our long-term health and our future. The medical industry is a part of that picture. The medical industry is one of the top environmental polluters with the incineration of medical waste that releases 215 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The organization, Practice Greenhealth, found through their 2010 survey that hospitals produce about 5.9 million tons of trash per year. According to the organization Health Care Without Harm, the incineration process releases some of the highest amounts of dioxin, mercury, lead, and other dangerous pollutants of any polluter into our air and water year after year. These statistics do not include pharmaceutical or food waste. The problem exists, but many people are hard at work figuring out solutions for these problems. One foundational solution could be to avoid utilizing the conventional medical industry as much as possible.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), massage, chiropractic, and other forms of holistic medical care carry with them a very small footprint on the environment. If more young people adopt holistic medicine modalities as a central focus of their healthcare, then they will likely use conventional medical interventions less, thereby reducing their contribution to the pollution of the environment. Stewardship is a notion that inheres in the individual an assumption of responsible management of resources, both related to personal health and that of the larger world. The ethical use of resources may seem a lofty and unreachable goal with the pressures of daily life pushing most of us to grasp for conveniences, but many of our current convenience items are undermining a healthy future.
Over the last decade or so, a significant mind set shift has been gaining momentum. As the demand for non-drug, nature-based medicines and modalities increase with people realizing the consequences of taking pharmaceuticals for long periods of time, holistic systems-based paradigms of medicine (like TCM) make increasingly more sense to a larger and younger population who are seeing chronic and serious illness showing up earlier in their lives.
So what could this green medicine stewardship look like for the future of health care? First of all, new and dynamic insurance policies need to be developed on the premise of true prevention (not just a few more tests earlier on) and not the expensive sick-care model of invasive and drug-oriented medicine. That requires a concerted, vocal demand from the public. The younger generations that are entering the workforce or will be in a few years must look at the impact of all of their choices like no other generation has been willing to do previously. It is becoming a necessity to consider and create collective choices with our personal ones.
Holistic medicine has the lowest environmental impact of all types of healthcare: no toxic chemicals, minimal to zero emissions from medical waste. Additionally, your own productivity is impacted for the better. People who actively utilize the holistic medicine that I offer in my practice typically experience fewer lost workdays, take less medication, and receive fewer invasive procedures.
The reason for this (at least from the anecdotal data I have) is that the premise of the medicine I work from is to cut illness and dysfunction off at the root and coach my patients to proactively manage lifestyle issues with the help of myself and other professionals in the holistic medicine field. This is accomplished from a systems-based approach to medicine. The genesis of TCM came about through observation of the systems in nature and how they were reflected in the balanced and imbalanced function of the human body. As TCM integrates into the contemporary healthcare landscape of the US, conventional allopathic medicine disciplines are borrowing from it. The deeper ecology of how we care for our health is integrated with how we care for the environment we live in to sustain that health.
Our collective internal health will more closely be reflected in the health of the environment under our stewardship. The advent of the nascent understanding of epigenetics underscores the salience of this relationship for future generations. Moving from the philosophical broad view to a practical picture of what I’m pointing out will likely be actualized in the generation of people who are now children. Medicine that mimics the patterns and power of nature appears to be the path of least resistance toward for a large population in the years to come.
Tracy L. Hackett, AP, DAOM is an Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACTCM at CiiS, San Francisco, CA) practicing in Jupiter, Florida. She has found health through holistic medicine herself and brings the same to others since 2005. She specializes in the treatment of pain and GI issues. She has also developed nearly 30 new acupuncture points for the treatment of digestive issues, pain (post-concussion, jaw, neck, low back, pelvic), and neuropathy.