The planet and health go hand in hand
World Health Day has been observed worldwide on April 7 since 1950 to raise awareness of deadly global diseases and encourage healthy lifestyles. Every year has a specific theme, and the motto for 2022 is “Our planet, our health.” It highlights the close connection between the planet, the place we live, and our way of interacting with and living on it. The big question that every government, community, organization, and person should ask themselves is, “What am I doing to protect “my” planet and “my” health?”
The million-dollar question
For many, this question is hard to answer. This era’s prevailing inertia and lifestyle don’t let us stop, observe, and rethink customs and ways of life that gradually impoverish and deteriorate the environment and, as a result, our quality of life, health, and well-being. If we took some time to reflect, we would surely come to the conclusion that taking small (or big) steps in our daily lives would contribute to slowing down the unstoppable race towards the destruction of natural resources that are so scarce, all to live and feel healthy.
While the leading causes of death around the world include cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (many of which are closely linked to our lifestyle), premature deaths caused by known avoidable environmental hazards are estimated to be in the millions. Air pollution, water waste, dangerous chemical hazards, poor sanitation, and climate change have become major environmental threats to our health.
Unhealthy life habits that make the planet sick
Certain unhealthy lifestyles (such as excessive consumption of certain foods or pollution) are impacting the planet, and we must be aware of these to take action and change this trend.
Let’s take one significant example: tobacco. We all know the negative effects that tobacco consumption has on our health, but what do we know about its impact on the environment? Tobacco cultivation requires intensive land and water usage, and it releases harmful substances into river waters. Its consumption, manufacture, and waste disposal all result in major environmental degradation. But that’s not all. Cigarette butts are the most abundant plastic residue in the world. Millions of these butts are disposed of improperly (on beaches, in forests…), and it’s not uncommon to find them inside terrestrial and marine animals. Perhaps knowing that cigarette butts are fundamentally made of plastic and that a cigarette releases more than 7,000 toxic substances into the environment – affecting our collective health – can help us understand how the impact that this and other unhealthy daily habits has is undermining something as precious as our health, as well as the planet’s.
We’re all part of the solution
Building a world that has clean air to breathe, where drinking water and healthy food are accessible without exception, is a mission that concerns all of us. In the business world, having organizations focus on the health and well-being of their employees wherever they are is a non-negotiable obligation, and this has an effect that extends beyond the workplace. In this context, promoting health means letting people have more control over their health by setting up conditions that ensure the highest well-being for everyone.
Encouraging changes in the workplace to promote and protect health through specific policies, as well as ensuring access to health services, will help us prevent both physical and mental illnesses. This is where we could talk about comprehensive well-being, which empowers individuals to face each day through acquiring skills, knowledge, and tools to lead a balanced life across different areas.
Let’s be smart and think in the long term. By caring for our health when we’re young, we will have more opportunities to enjoy longer lives with better quality of life. By taking care of the planet’s health, we’ll create a better world for generations to come. The future has yet to be written. What we do today will make a difference.