HEALTH MATTERS: Covid has been dominating all of our lives in many ways for nearly two years now, writes NHS Highland medic Dr Tim Allison
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Two issues grabbing many headlines at the moment are Covid and sustainability, writes Dr Tim Allison.
Covid has been dominating all of our lives in many ways for nearly two years now.
Sustainability and climate change have been in the headlines for far longer of course, and there is also a focus from the upcoming COP 26 conference in Glasgow.
Both Covid and climate change are reshaping our lives, but is there more of a connection between them than that?
Pandemics have causes, often many different causes, but these almost always include the transition of a disease from animal to human at the very start of the pandemic.
Diseases such as the Spanish influenza pandemic from a century ago and various epidemics of Ebola can be traced back to animal disease that made the jump to humans at times of war or habitat upheaval.
Covid started as a disease in bats.
Precisely how the virus made the transition from a disease of bats to one of humans is still both uncertain and rather controversial.
However, changes to climate and habitats, along with expanding human settlement, are putting pressure on animals, increasing the contact between humans and animals and heightening the chance that another deadly disease will cross over.
Efforts to tackle climate change and to increase sustainability should help to prevent another pandemic occurring.
We have all been forced to change our lifestyles because of the need to protect ourselves and others from Covid.
Many of these changes have been highly damaging, with losses of jobs and the physically and mentally damaging inability of people to see loved ones for weeks and months at a time.
There have, though, been changes that show how we can act in ways that help both tackle Covid and increase sustainability at the same time.
Working from home and reducing our travel are not complete solutions either to Covid or to climate change and they will always only be possible for some of us to do.
We all need contact with other people at least some of the time.
However, dealing with Covid has shown us that change can happen in a way that works.
People who never thought home working was possible, or who never thought meetings could be done without travelling miles by car, have now seen what it is actually possible to do.
Health and sustainability have other links to consider too.
Many of the activities that we can do to improve environmental sustainability will also help our physical and mental health.
These include engaging more in active travel by walking or cycling rather than driving, and increasing our intake of fruit and vegetables.
Covid has damaged our health and wellbeing in many ways and the effects of Covid will continue to harm the physical and mental health of people for years to come.
However, it may also have given us a sight of how we can do things differently – and some good may come from that for ourselves and the climate.
Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.