Editorial: Health Care Reform and the Environment - ACS Publications

Editorial: Health Care Reform and the Environment - ACS Publicationshttps://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es00044a603...

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Health Care Reform and the Environment


y the time this issue of ESbT appears, a national health care plan for the United States will probably be on the table. The central tenet of the plan will be universal coverage for all U.S. citizens. If this comes to pass, this country will have taken steps to make its health care system of a quality appropriate to its position as a world leader. On the surface, this issue appears to have little to do with environmental protection, particularly because the initial emphasis will be on providing clinical services to individuals. In a broader sense, however, protection of the environment is clearly linked to public health, and this synergism must be taken into account in the long-term plan for human health care in all countries.. Environmental protection is a part of a comprehensive strategy to provide public health care through prevention. In the long term, this is the most sensible and humanistic of all health care programs. Promoting wellness is not only cost effective; it also improves the quality of life. Wellness programs should be the cornerstone of any health care system. This is not the case in many countries now, but it must be in the future. Resources that are spent for good nutrition, exercise programs, and cleaner indoor and outdoor environments are good investments that eventually will lower the costs for primary health care. This concept has not always been evident to decision makers and the general public because discussions of health care often emphasize direct costs such as clinical services and administration. Studies have shown that additional benefits accrue from health promotion and disease prevention,

but these benefits are more difficult to measure. Of course, the research and public policy agenda for environmental protection need not focus solely on human health protection. Indeed, we must transcend the strong tendency of human beings to place every issue in an anthropocentric context. But we must remember that the protection of the health and welfare of all world citizens is essential as we construct the environmental research agenda for the future. Humanity and the natural environment will both benefit by an agenda that is integrated, emphasizes prevention rather than remediation, and is based on a determination to use good science for humanistic purposes and for stewardship of the commons.

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1242 Enviran. Sci. Technol., Vol. 27. No. 7, 1993

0013-936)093/0927-1242$04.00/0 @ 1993 American Chemical Saciely