Our Well being Care System Should Be Ready for Local weather Change, Pure Disasters and Excessive Climate
We need health ethics in environmental justice, and we need environmental ethics in health justice.
“Given that so much politics and national and international discourse focus on public health and climate change, it is imperative that we use a broad ethical framework when writing and evaluating policy,” writes Gladhart-Hayes. (Tom Page / Flickr)
In recent months, much of the United States, particularly the south, has seen severe winter weather and unusual, if not unprecedented, storms. The storms hit Texas hard and affected life, health and the pandemic response. And the residents of Jackson, Miss., Experienced weeks into February and into March without clean running water – a problem caused by double-blows of major storms and crumbling infrastructure.
The storms were particularly dangerous for disabled people. Without electricity, people were left without medication, mobility, and medical devices, and in dangerous road conditions, people were trapped with no access to in-home or delivery services. Rafael Garcia told Disability Rights Texas that he was afraid of what might happen as he was forced to ration breathing treatments.
Rolling power outages are so dangerous and unpleasant. People with oxygen, who use feeding tubes, wheelchairs, and charge life-saving devices in the few minutes they have electricity. The Texas government is sitting in this storm and pandemic without caring about their disabled Texans.
– Spider-Mads @ (@onlymadisonw) February 17, 2021
Extreme weather and pandemic
While such events always have an impact on the health and life of those affected (especially disabled people with special and neglected needs), during the introduction of pandemics and vaccines they impacted all aspects of efforts to contain the pandemic out of concern for those who who are sick.
As with the forest fires in summer and fall, storms and power outages forced people to gather in shelters, this time to warm. This increased the risk of COVID-19 exposure and made it difficult for people to quarantine or isolate themselves. For people relaxing at home, cold temperatures and lack of electricity have deprived of medical assistance and worsened symptoms. For those in hospitals, doctors describe being more overwhelmed by the storms than by previous waves of COVID-19. Due to the lack of running or potable water, healthcare providers have had to ration or postpone supplies such as dialysis. Outside of hospitals, ambulances have had difficulty reaching those in need or transferring patients between facilities.
While the introduction of vaccines offers hope and an end to the pandemic in sight, storms also made it difficult. Storms delayed the operation of vaccination clinics in many places across the country. Even some apparently unaffected areas had to move clinics due to grounded broadcasts. The extra work created by rescheduling appointments was discussed by UK healthcare providers late last year when their government changed vaccination guidelines. While inevitable in extreme weather conditions, it has created additional work for state, regional, and tribal health agencies that have been operating in emergency mode for a year and continue to handle high, albeit falling, case numbers.
Health ethics in environmental justice and environmental ethics in health justice
The effects of environmental factors and climate change on public health and individuals are not new. Environmental racism has profound health effects on color communities and often does not get the attention it deserves. The effects of climate change have already been felt by indigenous communities around the world. And for many of these communities, the relationship between the environment and responding to pandemics has been an issue from the start. For the Navajo nation, the enduring impact of mining on their land has resulted in communities lacking water for sanitation as their community has suffered devastating losses from COVID-19.
Ultimately, much like the pandemic, these storms show how closely our society and the world are connected. In Texas, a cultural emphasis on self-reliance made things so much worse than any other state that experienced unusually harsh winter weather. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the dangers of a culture that is too focused on individualism and self-reliance. These are key values that have been raised in debates over mask mandates.
While everyone laughs at the fact that Texas isn’t prepared for a winter storm. Please remember that minorities and the disabled community are hardest hit by the short-sighted planning and readiness of the state.
– Sean Summer (@ SSummer737) February 17, 2021
As we advance climate action, end the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue to prepare for emerging infectious diseases, we must remember the limits of self-reliance and recognize the profound effects of a changing climate on our other public health efforts. whether it is about continuing to prevent emerging infectious diseases or addressing deeper health inequalities with food sovereignty, affordability of care, access to home health, reproductive choices and disability rights.
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In her book “An Invitation to Feminist Ethics”, Hilde Lindeman describes a “network of relationships” in which she calls for a medical ethic that values and sees the patient’s relationships with family, friends and community. We need to worry about addressing these big, interconnected problems that take into account these multidirectional connections that we all have. For many, the pandemic has shown how closely we are connected in ways that were previously not as tangible and that awareness should influence our response to the problems we face.
Our health care system needs to be prepared for climate change, natural disasters and extreme weather – and for the specific effects these events have on underserved and historically marginalized communities, including indigenous communities, people with disabilities, people without residence and rural populations.
And our strategies to mitigate climate change must take into account the public health implications, again taking into account historically marginalized communities. We need health ethics in environmental justice, and we need environmental ethics in health justice. The relationship between health and the environment is not new, and now with so much politics and both national and international discourse centered on public health and climate change, it is imperative that we use a broad ethical framework when writing and evaluating policy.
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