The medical and health industry continues to expand and evolve to try to point out determinants factors that influence people's daily lives, as well as their health and the possibility of access to health, being the two of these factors, are climate and environment.
Also known as Social Determinants of Health - SDOH defines the environment as the patient's workplace, where he lives, and social places where he often goes. There are also factors such as food and housing insecurity that impact health. And look at these factors, and at different indicators, such as rural or city (urban) environment, water quality, and neighborhood violence, can help and understand the patient's relationship with their health and how to positively impact it.
In other words, the patient's well-being depends on many other factors besides having housing, food, and means of transportation to move around the city. The physical spaces in which we live, the quality of the built spaces, and the natural elements in these spaces are also key parts of achieving a better quality of health.
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Environmental factors and climate
The environment - here being the natural and climatic geographic environment where a person lives - has a considerable impact on his health. According to Healthy People 2030, the top three environmental factors that directly affect health are water quality, air pollution, and extreme heat. Water quality, for example, puts the health of the population at risk in more than one way, as it also contaminates soil and crops in addition to direct contamination. Remember that lack of infrastructure can also lead to contamination of drinking water.
According to Healthy People 2030, exposure continues to air pollutants such as ozone and other micro-particles, increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases that can lead to death, and also increases the chances of lung cancer. People who spend a lot of time indoors are also subject to air pollution, so their health can also be affected.
The third factor placed, extreme heat, can also negatively impact health. Since high temperatures can cause isolation, especially for homeless people, or even people who live in houses in precarious situations, mainly in regions where the temperature can reach dangerous limits.
In January of this year, researchers at the University of California San Diego reported that heat waves resulted in a spike in emergency room visits, especially in cases where the person has precarious housing. And the more days the heat wave lasts, the greater the tendency to increase attendance. And of course, global warming exacerbates all these factors.
According to the World Health Organization - WHO, climate change is the greatest threat to human health, and health professionals around the world have had to help people because of these factors, and it is worth remembering that their situation worsens over the years.
The World Health Organization also states that the risks associated with climate change can be vast and include:
- Injuries and mortality caused by extreme weather events;
- Weather-related diseases;
- Respiratory diseases;
- Waterborne diseases and other health impacts related to the consumption of unsafe or contaminated water;
- Zoonoses, which are diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans;
- Vector diseases;
- Malnutrition and food-related illnesses;
- Triggering non-communicable diseases (such as genetic diseases for example);
- Psychological and mental illnesses.
Actions on climate change
The American Academy of Pediatrics - AAP, argued that climate change should be taken into account as a key issue in health, since the scientific community predicts that it will get worse over time, so babies and children will, consequently, suffer more from the impacts of these changes throughout their lives, until they reach adulthood.
Children's health can suffer numerous impacts due to climate change, and include a worsening of asthma and allergies, physical trauma from natural disasters, psychological symptoms, which can range from stress about the future, to post-traumatic stress, increased exposure to infectious diseases, and lack of access to adequate food and water. The American Academy of Pediatrics group also states that "seeing climate change as one of the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), can help build consensus among healthcare professional groups and other stakeholders to lower healthcare costs and improve child health."
Having said that, it is also valid to state that today, the issues of climate change and the environment as health factors, do not yet have comprehensive and good enough solutions, since these are macro factors, that deal with complex issues such as carbon emission levels, and therefore depend much more, not on the care of the population individually, but of different government policies. Despite this, education about health is still extremely important, since it is possible to prevent and mitigate these points, such as teaching patients emergency care and how to prevent disasters in risk areas.
And although health professionals think that this is a subject of little interest on the part of patients, it is still the duty of professionals to educate and engage their patients. According to Renee N. Salas, who is an affiliate of the Harvard Global Health Institute, "There is a huge opportunity for healthcare professionals to help their patients see the connections between climate change and their health. This is important for the physician's mission, which is to prevent harm and improve health. And as patients understand these connections, the more the fight against climate change becomes something personal and generates actions that impact the improvement of health".
Partnerships between health communities can also help with these issues. Healthcare organizations, especially hospitals, usually serve as an anchor for the smaller institutions that lie within the communities and can help to increase the influence and reach of these institutions, raising information further afield, to communities.
The environment of cities, or urban, which is composed of all the structures created by human beings and their surroundings, has a direct impact on people's health. In this urban environment, we can also relate the factors of access to transport, distances, access to healthcare facilities, quality of education and care, safety, and quality of housing, in addition to neighborhood safety.
According to Healthy People 2030, "people of different ethnicities, minorities or low incomes, usually need to live in places with little infrastructure and high risk, and other conditions that directly affect health, such as the high rate of violence. In addition, in the work environment, people may also be exposed to situations that threaten their well-being, like being a passive smoker or even loud and continuous noises".
People who are forced to live with smoke, being passive smokers, for example, suffer from constantly poor air quality, with a quality that can be even worse than in an open urban environment. Neighborhoods where there is daily violence, bad schools or even few schools, and even neighborhoods where there are few health establishments, also negatively impact the health of the population that lives there.
As mentioned earlier, actions within the urban environment also need the support of public policies and state intervention. For example, increasing the security of these locations, increasing the number of parks and social recreation areas, and even increasing the number of bike racks can help improve the quality of life of the local population, encouraging the practice of physical activities. A survey by Endocrine Reviews showed that cities that were considered easy to walk, and with establishments of essential services close to each other, have lower rates of diabetes and obesity than other cities where the distances are greater.
Access to green areas
Green areas, and not just rural areas, but also the number of trees on an urban street, grass, and vegetation, fall into this category. In April of this year, researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health found that more "green spaces" can improve cognitive activity for middle-aged people, and even prevent cognitive diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's. Research has shown that especially if these spaces with vegetation are close to people's homes or within their neighborhoods, there is the possibility of increasing attention and speed of cognitive function, as well as reducing depression rates. Green spaces have also had a direct impact on the recent COVID-19 pandemic, closing the gap of infection between different ethnicities.
With all these factors, it is worth considering that health software can facilitate and improve the health of both health professionals, as well as the patient, since, in addition to the ease of access, portability, and security, we can list that software like Ninsaúde Apolo for clinics, you can also reduce your ecological footprint since you spend less natural resources.
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Source: Patient Engagemnt Hit