Addressing the health care crisis and global warming

The topic of the health care crisis has dominated the media in recent years and will likely continue to be of great interest. This issue must remain relevant. However, without united action, the health care crisis and burnout may end up like the topic of global warming – frequently discussed but often politicized and inadequately addressed.

The global warming crisis, as seen in headlines, has been described as scientists warning that the environment is nearing a breaking point of no return. These headlines further emphasize that fish populations are dying at record levels. If we simply substitute “fish” and “environment” with “doctors,” we find ourselves discussing physician burnout.

Burnout and global warming are similar phenomena, and I will elucidate this with my energy equation. Burnout occurs when energy outputs exceed energy inputs, resulting in a negative energy balance that leads to frustration, exhaustion, and cynicism over time.

Global warming is an outcome of the same energy equation. It has transpired because the Earth’s energy outputs (utilization of resources) have surpassed energy inputs (replacement of Earth’s resources). Much like a person experiencing burnout, the Earth is now frustrated, exhausted, and cynical. Mother Earth is not pleased and is venting her frustrations.

The consequences of global warming and physician burnout in the health care crisis are strikingly similar. Here are some headlines that underscore this point:

“Rising Temperatures Threaten Ecosystems and Livelihoods”: This headline illustrates the parallel impact of rising temperatures on both natural ecosystems due to global warming and health care professionals due to physician burnout. Just as changing climates threaten ecosystems, health care professionals face the risk of burnout, endangering their well-being and careers, affecting them and the patients they serve.

“Loss of Biodiversity Reaches Alarming Levels”: This headline underscores the interchangeable nature of biodiversity loss caused by global warming and the scarcity of medical professionals resulting from physician burnout. Both scenarios lead to a decline in diversity – be it in natural habitats or the range of health care specialists available – creating imbalances and vulnerabilities in the respective ecosystems.

“Extreme Weather Events on the Rise”: Both global warming and the health care crisis manifest an increase in extreme events. While severe weather patterns become more frequent due to climate change, a surge in medical emergencies and health care demands occurs. This parallel emphasizes the growing challenges of these phenomena, requiring adaptive strategies and preparedness.

“Limited Resources Strain the System”: This headline highlights the mirroring effect of resource scarcity in dealing with global warming and the shortage of health care resources in addressing physician burnout. The limited resources available to combat climate change echo the constraints faced within health care systems, where shortages in staff, funding, and support services strain the overall capacity to provide adequate care and support for health care professionals.

“Calls for Urgent Action Grow Louder”: This headline emphasizes the pressing need for immediate action to combat global warming and physician burnout. The urgency to address these issues grows louder as their impacts become more evident, urging societies, policymakers, and institutions to prioritize solutions. Heightened awareness and collective efforts are crucial to effectively tackle these challenges and secure a sustainable future for the planet and health care professionals.

Now that the parallels between these crises have been established, what can we do about them? Waiting for politicians to “save us” may lead to profound disappointment. Some politicians prioritize maintaining their power, often avoiding polarizing stances. They frequently resort to vague promises and refuse to take a firm stand. Moreover, our significant social problems stem from centuries of choices, not from a single political term. We won’t resolve these issues within a single four or eight-year term.

I’ve heard about the urgency of global warming since childhood, with scientists setting deadlines that have come and gone. The toll on human lives and the global environment has been catastrophic. We have global warming deniers, those who believe in it but do nothing, and people who actively try to address it, reflecting a wide range of responses.

The more effective approach is individual and collective action. We, as individuals, can make choices that contribute to long-term change. We tend to place excessive trust in our leaders and politicians, neglecting our power. When we collectively harness our power, we can be remarkably influential.

Here is a list of actions that could significantly impact the energy equation for both burnout and physician burnout and capture the interest of politicians and physicians:

Exercise. Instead of driving to the coffee shop or grocery store, use your bike or walk. Promoting community design and city planning for accessible sidewalks can be a non-partisan initiative and should be evaluated.

Find a hobby. Engage in activities outside of work, rekindling your passion for gardening or playing a musical instrument. Community gardens can support local communities and those in need and could be a neutral point for city planners.

Mental fitness. Incorporate mental fitness into daily conversations and school curriculums. Mentally fit individuals tend to be more creative and productive, benefiting society and, in turn, contributing to the economy.

Create environmentally conscious communities. Develop communities that prioritize environmental sustainability. Such communities consume fewer resources and may become less dependent on public resources.

Consume nutritious food. Acknowledge the importance of food as medicine and avoid consuming highly processed foods. Healthier individuals lead to healthier families and communities, ultimately reducing health care costs and alleviating the burden on insurance companies.

Let’s reverse the energy equation. Let’s strive for a world abundant in energy and health. This transformation can commence with your choices, leading by example. Over time, others will likely follow suit, creating a positive ripple effect across society.

Tomi Mitchell is a family physician and founder, Dr. Tomi Mitchell Holistic Wellness Strategies. She can be reached on Twitter @DrTomiMitchell, Facebook, Pinterest, and Clubhouse.


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