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Introduction to Environmental Wellness

It’s hard to believe that EMOttawa and CAEP (Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians) are hosting the 4th annual Canadian Emergency Medicine Wellness Week (January 20th to 24th 2020)!

Over the years, we’ve published blog posts from EM leaders across the country sharing personal stories and practical tips on how to be well in Emergency Medicine. Last year, based on the Wellness Wheel, we focused on the 7 dimensions of wellness: physical, social, spiritual, occupational, intellectual, financial and emotional. Our message: achieving some form of balance across each spoke is ideal to keep the wheel churning in the right direction and to prevent from bottoming out.

However, one important domain left off this wheel is Environmental Wellness. After all, how can we be well if we are neglecting one of the basic hierarchies of human needs – the physical need for air, water, and food provided to us all by our precious planet Earth. 

This year, we are pleased to announce that EM Ottawa and CAEP are partnering with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment for this year’s Emergency Medicine Wellness Week.

CAEP meets CAPE… enough said.

Featuring authors such as CAPE president and fellow Emergency Physician Dr. Courtney Howard, national experts Drs. Curtis Lavoie, Gary Bota, and more, we will provide you with important information on the need for increased environmental awareness. The articles will also include practical tips that all of us can adopt to lessen our carbon footprint, with a special focus on what we can do as physicians and leaders to advocate for change on a health care system level. Dare we say goodbye to styrofoam in hospitals? Did you know you can prescribe plastic-free inhalers? Have you ever thought about establishing a recycling program in your workplace? The list could go on and on. 

Before we continue, I want to advocate for the importance of positive change, no matter how big or how small it is. Sometimes, trying to change habits can feel completely overwhelming. One of my resolutions this year is to adopt the philosophy popularized by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. He explains how “habits are the compound interest of self-improvement” (this can be summed up in the graph below). By making small 1% changes for the “better”, you can obtain significant growth and change over time. Tip – this can apply to many habits you might be inclined to change…

Lastly, to paraphrase one of the leading experts in zero-waste lifestyle, Planet Earth doesn’t need a handful of people being “perfect” when it comes to Environmental Wellness, rather it needs many individuals to attempt it in an imperfect way. So, if anything, I hope that after this week you will feel empowered to pick at least one thing to better your own environmental wellness, which in turn will continue your personal growth and wellness journey.   

Without further ado, welcome to this year’s greener version of Emergency Medicine Wellness Week! Throughout the week we’d love to hear your comments, thoughts, and suggestions – and we would love to hear how you like to keep Well in EM ! Follow along on Twitter @emergmedottawa or on our Facebook page. Join the conversation using #CAEPWellness2020, #Wellnessweek, and include @CAEP_wellness, @CAPE_doctors and @emergmedottawa in your tweets.

environmental wellnessenvironmental wellness

Lisa Fischer

Lisa Fischer

Dr. Fischer is an attending Emergency and Palliative care physician at the Ottawa Hospital. She is also the Director of Wellness in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

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