Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference. Each one of us must take responsibility for our own lives, and above all, show respect and love for living things around us, especially each other.
– Jane Goodall, Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey (1998)
Lifestyles and the choices that comprise them are complex and diverse. No matter what style of life you choose, there are many ways to align that lifestyle with choices supportive of health. Simultaneously, infusion of these same choices also can defend the health of family, pets, community, and the environment. The remainder of this article will focus on three broad determinants of health (DoH) categories that anyone can influence for the benefit vs detriment of ourselves, our neighbors, our animals, and our planet.
Food intake and what influences food choices are common themes in DoH discussions. Cultural influences, socioeconomic factors, food deserts, and nutritional education are among the more familiar related topics. In recent years, though, attention has been given not just to the foods chosen but to the origins of those selections. Listed below are several ways that the impact of food sources affect the interwoven factors of planetary DoH:
- Sustainability of crops, flocks, and herds – Consider purchasing food from vendors that support and promote local sustainability. More than a culinary trend, the farm-to-table movement is a positive DoH choice.
- Comparative carbon “foodprint” of protein sources – Production of food sources like plants or poultry typically have a smaller carbon footprint than pork or beef. While a permanent change may not be one’s preferred choice, consider alternating to reduce the carbon burden over time.
- Regional food production patterns – The degree of crop diversity impacts the nutritional value of the harvest, whether for human or animal consumption, and is a DoH.
- Effects of climate change – Loss of arable land is a DoH resulting from climate change, as temporary vs permanent farm crops are more susceptible to global warming.
Where we live, work, learn, play, shop, and worship are all subject to location-specific factors that are established DoH. Forming interdependent layers that impact the surrounding flora and fauna, we can influence the factors below through our choices, our actions, and our advocacy:
- Types of pollution – The World Health Organization identifies air quality (indoor and outdoor), water quality, and noise pollution as significant determinants of health.
- Regional socioeconomic variables – Type and availability of housing, education, access to healthcare, income, and cost-of-living are DoH factors often included in this category.
- Cultural factors – Community cohesion, diversity, equity, and inclusion are DoH typically described as culturally-based.
- Sociobehavioral factors – These are DoH influences that include access, discrimination, violence, abuse, and crime.
Mitigating any of these expansive problems via individual choices may see daunting but in-roads are possible. For example, improving indoor air quality can start by learning how to reduce exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The simple act of selecting one carpet vs another for no additional dollars can reduce this source of indoor pollution and reducing the market for such products benefits the environment overall.
The ability of people, populations, animals, plants, and the environment to mitigate, compensate, and recover in the face of adversity characterizes resilience. Exemplifying the complexity of the one health/one nature model is both the culmination of many DoH factors and a separately measurable DoH. There are some surprisingly simple individual choices that can promote resilience, as follows:
- Physical activity – Even small degrees of movement, like dancing while you cook or clean, not only adds exercise but provides stress relief and promotes joy.
- Flex a mental muscle – Play along with a gameshow, read about something new, enjoy a word or numbers game. Research shows that when we challenge ourselves mentally on a regular basis, we build neurocognitive resilience, reduce depression, slow dementia, and recover more quickly from neurological injuries, such as stroke and head trauma.
- Reduce stress and guilt – Behavioral experts agree that honoring your genuine self bolsters mental health, reduces blood pressure, and benefits cardiovascular health.
- Supportive relationships – Choosing positive social connections directly impacts mental health by reducing stress, blood pressure, risk of stroke, and risk of heart attack, while increasing overall quality of life.
Simply put, there is no single definition of “healthy lifestyle” for any given individual or group. The relative healthiness or unhealthiness of a lifestyle is the outcome of many choices and related behaviors interacting with physical and social environments. As a result, the impact of our choices extends beyond the individual, yielding a wide range of determinants of health (DoH) affecting all living things.
Author: Allison A. Sakara
Griffin Works offers Pawsitive Interactions with Service Dogs During Response Operations©, an audience-customized training that breaks down barriers by offering hands-on handling training and demonstrations with working service dogs for fire departments, EMS agencies, and public safety organizations.
Part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and home to the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center, TEEX has been leading homeland security training since 1998. The major TEEX programs include fire and rescue, infrastructure and safety, law enforcement, economic and workforce development, and homeland security. As a member of The Texas A&M University System, TEEX is unique in its ability to access a broad range of emerging research and technical expertise. Beginning with course design and development all the way through hands-on instruction and national certification testing, TEEX delivers comprehensive training through both classroom and hands-on instruction and as online courses.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. This unique network of child-serving professionals, caregivers and young adults, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children’s lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. The NCTSN is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and coordinated by the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS).
The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The EMI provides national leadership in developing and delivering training to ensure that individuals and groups having key emergency management responsibilities possess the requisite skills to effectively perform their jobs.
The High Alert Institute maintains a list of reviewed courses provided by governments, universities and professional organizations. This list is geared towards the non-emergency management person who participates in disaster planning, preparedness, response, recovery or mitigation as part of their job responsibilities.
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Koi need forever homes, too! For pond enthusiasts, freshwater exotic and ornamental fish may not be available through pet stores or rescues in their area. The High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program will be happy to assist you in stocking your new pond or adding a new finned friend to your school. Coming soon – when you adopt a Koi from the High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program, we can arrange for delivery to your door anywhere in the continental United States.
Have you always wanted a Koi pond but don’t have the space one? Sponsor a Koi in our community shelter pond and we send you photos of your sponsored animal. Coming soon are live Koi Cameras above and below the water to enjoy your sponsored Koi anytime.
Dumping of freshwater non-native species and exotic aquatic pets into wild habitats is a man-made disaster that is truly preventable. The Institute’s Aquatic Pet Welfare Partnership works to raise awareness and reduce the impact on healthy ecosystems through education, as well as rescue and rehoming. Joined by champions of animal welfare and environmental stewardship, this association of aquatic pet rescue operations and aquatic pet shelters across the United States aims to save our finned friends and preserve our waterways together.
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Make your donation twice as nice by rehoming aquatic pets and providing a rehabilitation companion pet to a deserving person, family, or facility. Sponsor part or all of a Joy of Koi Program pond installation – complete with rehomed koi – and give the gifts of love and recovery.
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Disasters are defined as situations in which needs exceed or overwhelm available resources. Some disasters affect an entire community, while other disasters impact individuals and families. Crises of physical or psychological health can be very personal disasters.
The therapeutic value of pets during illness, trauma, and recovery is well established. And Koi fish may be well suited for people who are not able to provide verbal pet commands or physically care for pets like dogs and cats. Koi ponds are also a source of beauty and peace, providing an ideal setting for quiet reflection or meditation.
We are working to partner with pond installers and aquatic pet rescues/shelters to offer free or reduced-cost ponds with rehomed Koi fish to people seeking this type of pet therapy.
Disasters disrupt life and impact our sense of personal, family, and community safety. Survivors and responders alike often are not aware of the emotional, psychological or spiritual challenges that they may face from disaster onset through recovery. With two decades of experience training responders and communities to prepare for the behavioral health aspects of disasters, we will continue to provide education and a curated list of resources to groups or individuals.
Non-medical factors that impact overall health are termed Social Determinants of Health or SDoH. Noise pollution, poor air quality, and poor water quality are three environmental factors known to have a strong link to overall health. And the same environmental factors that impact humans impact their pets and other animals in their care. We continue to assist in advocacy, education, and technology development to mitigate the impact of SDoH on humans and animals alike.
Our efforts in shelter and rescue are the main focus of our environmental stewardship, reducing the environmental impact of non-native aquatic animals being dumped into public waterways. The High Alert Institute also assists innovators with the design, development, and evaluation of green and renewable energy technologies. Reducing the carbon footprint associated with disaster preparedness, response, and recovery furthers our continued mission to mitigate risk and improve resilience.
We partner with public and private organizations, sharing resources and fostering partnerships to improve disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and mitigation.
The High Alert Institute team has over a century of combined research experience in medical, nursing, behavioral health, and disaster sciences. Our team provides support to researchers and technology developers through comprehensive literature searches and reviews, as well as failure mode database searches and adjudicated reviews.
When disaster strikes, most aquatic pet owners have limited options to secure the safety of their pets. Sheltering in place may not be possible if there is no power to provide aeration and “pet-friendly” shelters do not include ponds or aquariums. Our goal is to provide an option for aquatic pet owners in need of rescue and shelter for their finned friends.
Our goal is to share our two decades of disaster readiness experience with animal welfare organizations, shelters, caretakers, and pet owners, as they implement contingency plans for natural and manmade disasters.