Doing our Part: Making Healthcare Sustainable

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Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Healthcare in Ontario is financially unsustainable. We spend 43% of our provincial budget on healthcare and economists estimate that in less than 20 years we’ll require an impossible budget of 80% to accommodate our sick population. A significant portion of this budget is consumed by the 80% of adult Ontarians who have a chronic illness, such as heart disease and diabetes. Science has established beyond a doubt that most chronic disease is preventable and often reversible. We have to be smarter about chronic illness if our publically-funded healthcare system is to survive.

One of my favourite quotes is from the philosopher Wendell Berry: “The idea that we live in something called “The Environment” is utterly preposterous… The world that environs us, that is around us, is also within us. We are made of it; We eat, drink, and breathe it”. The idea that humans exist separate from our surroundings is a cultural phenomenon that underestimates the impact of environment on health. This misconception contributes significantly to our current healthcare crisis and is a driving force behind Integrative Medicine, a relatively sustainable healthcare approach that combines the wisdom of ancient healthcare systems with facets of modern scientific disciplines, including environmentalism and medicine.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of healthier environments enabling healthier people, but the reverse is also true: Healthier citizens produce healthier environments. Because we are our environment, health-conscious choices are environmentally responsible choices. When we choose local organic produce, chemical-free cleaners, and biking to work, we simultaneously choose healthier bodies, communities, and environments. We reduce our risk of developing chronic disease, and of requiring surgery, pharmaceuticals, and emergency health services. We improve our body`s and our environment`s resilience to disease. These personal choices might also support a political climate in which, one day, hospital administrators have the freedom to choose solar technologies and fresh, preservative-free food that isn`t trucked in hundreds of kilometres.

While our Kingston community struggles to engage citizens to adopt sustainable practices for a healthier environment and community, few resources are allocated to directly supporting the health of individuals as a critical component of achieving this goal. KIHC is here to support our community by defining this broader role of healthcare for a sustainable future. Please share your efforts toward sustainability with us and other readers through our facebook page or by email. We’ll post your stories in our waiting room or e-newsletter. Let’s inspire a better Kingston!