Patient earth is in critical condition, says co-founder of EarthNurse Maggie Fay. Fay together with former Caribbean Public Health Agency’s (CARPHA) former executive director Dr James Hospedales founded EarthNurse. Hospedales is also the founder of EarthMedic. The not-for-profit organisations were launched on July 1 via Zoom.
Fay is calling for the UN’s climate change conference, COP26, to be held virtually this year instead of next year. The conference was scheduled to take place this year but was postponed to 2021 because of the covid19 pandemic.
“My reasoning for that is when you see a patient in a critical condition, you don't leave it for 18 months and hope for the best. You act. You do something now. And I see COP26 as a place where we form a care plan for our patient in a critical condition,” she said.
At the virtual launch, Hospedales said after 30 years of being in public health, EarthMedic brought together his love of the environment, scientific training and his personal religious belief “that God made this place and we are stewards of it but we are not being good stewards.”
This made him realise that something different had to be done.
“That is why we are launching EarthMedic and EarthNurse at this time,” he said.
Its website says the organisations “seek to partner with individuals and organisations of like mind to address planetary health issues, which are the health of human civilisations and the state of the underlying natural systems that support it”
It added that covid19 was a wake-up call; “a push for the world to start anew.”
EarthMedic seeks “to raise urgent attention to and resources for action to improve planetary health, working with an informed and empowered health workforce globally, and through public-private-people-planet (PPPP) partnerships, which focus on areas of co-beneficial action.”
It added that the organisations are global in scope with special focus on climate vulnerable regions and are based in TT and the UK.
Hospedales said its mission is to build a home for doctors and nurses concerned about the climate and health crisis, a space where concerns can be safely discussed, information and resources shared, plans made and action taken.
The organisations’ major priorities are climate change and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
On the website, the organisations said human health cannot exist if there isn’t a healthy planet.
It added that covid19, NCDs and climate change are “inter-linked planetary symptoms of ill health.”
“From a planetary health perspective, the covid19 pandemic is a serious wake-up call of more than one kind. The virus originated from a forest animal – as have other viruses – exposed and forced into areas it would naturally avoid, by deforestation, human encroachment and environmental degradation.
“If we continue to treat our forests and wildlife in this way, more viruses will emerge and cause further havoc so that surveillance and rapid, coordinated responses to new diseases become necessary, as well as the regulation of deforestation, and wildlife/wild meat sales and trade. We may even end up with diseases more devastating to human health than covid19” it said.
It said further that covid19 was having “such a severe impact” on population health because the current human population was ‘unfit’ to face the virus, given widespread inactivity, obesity, NCDs, hypertension, diabetes, air pollution, tobacco use, and lack of access to quality health care.
“Human disregard for their own health is also a disregard for the health of their planet, and that disregard is the first step in a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.”
For Hospedales, healthcare professionals have a duty of care to people and the planet and he envisions a world “in which we can lead long, happy, healthy and productive lives on a planet with a bright future.”
He also wants his children and grandchildren to “be on a planet with a brighter future than the one we have one.”
Fay became EarthNurse’s co-founder when she learned of the science of climate change.
“When I went and heard what will become of the earth, that we are facing a mass extinction. And when I saw the images of suffering on the news from fire, from cities overheating, from cities about to run out of water, from people suffering from lack of food, from rainforests being destroyed; species dying out, these are all things that tug at your heartstrings, the science as well, the hard facts of data. That brought me here because we can’t ignore what is happening to earth.”
EarthNurse is Fay’s way of doing something about the problem.
She said it is a home for nurses around the globe to come and express their concerns in a safe space.
“It is going to be a repository of nursing wisdom. It is also going to be a place of creativity and ideas,” she said.
Here are the organisations’ strategic imperatives
1. Raise awareness of climate change and health through information dissemination, communication and education
2. Strengthen community resilience to address the cumulative threat of climate change and severe weather events
3. Integrate multi-sectoral data and evidence for decision-making
4. Enhance regional sustainability and resilience for health facilities
5. Maximise the benefits of the built environment and climate change resilience
6. Coordinate resources to address climate change impacts on health
Visit www.earthmedic.com for more information.