David Pencheon: Climate change – a new take on health co-benefits

David Pencheon There are so many very good reasons for clinicians to seriously address climate change. One of the more compelling reasons is the health co-benefits argument. The rationale here is that actions that tackle climate change (taking more exercise, using cars and less often, cutting out air travel, eating much less meat, etc…) will be good, not only to address serious climate change, but also for our immediate health (reduced risk of diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, CHD, better mental health, reduced transport trauma, less air pollution, etc…)

However, perhaps we should consider the benefit on the health care system as well. We all know that doctors over-estimate the benefits of health care interventions, under-estimate their risk, and over medicalise almost all human conditions. A better health care system will mean the default location of health care should be home, or at least in primary care – more convenient, and often safer. A better healthcare system has more empowered patients and communities, who are better informed, and more able to manage their long term conditions such as diabetes. Wait a minute, am I being guilty of this medicalising thing myself? Is diabetes really a “long term condition”? – perhaps it’s a just one of the many risk factors we all live with? The truth is that the health care system we all aspire to, where the public is empowered, people with real needs can get them addressed safely and conveniently, and where specialist health care is not necessarily delivered in specialist centres, consultants being actually consulted to support primary care – all of this is in fact a low carbon health care system with low carbon patient pathways

Action, good for health, good for the health service, and good for the future. Am I missing something? ..and can someone articulate these thoughts more convincingly…?

David Pencheon

Thanks to Dr Steve Laitner and Professor Sir Muir Gray