In this weeks edition of the New England Journal of Medicine Dr. Anthony McMichael, who is from the Australian National University, Canberra, reviews the ways in which globalization, climate change and human health interact. The final sentence of this brave piece of scholarship sums it up nicely: “For populations to live sustainably and with good long-term health, the health sector must work with other sectors in reshaping how human societies plan, build, move, produce, consume, share, and generate energy.” Personally I would add the word conserve, but otherwise leave well alone. The problem arises from the interdisciplinary nature of the problem as nobody can span all the necessary areas of expertise.
At Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy we are trying to bring together leading evidence-based academics and professionals to move this process forward by directly addressing the problems with proposed transitional or bridging energy production methods and examining the possibility of directly moving to sustainable energy production as they relate to the environment and health.
I warmed to Dr. Nirav Shah when I heard him on an interview explain why he had recently decided to start practicing clinical medicine in a teaching context to keep in touch with his professional roots. He is a native of Buffalo NY, and received his medical training and MPH at Yale School of Medicine. He has had a productive research career and brings his sensibilities as a public health investigator and a physician to the position of New York State Commissioner of Health. He arrives at a time of great change in the delivery of healthcare and also at a moment of fiscal constraints. He has his hands full. Yet into his full hands NYS DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens placed the Revised SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program. He has been charged to perform a health review of this document to determine if it adequately addresses the impacts of unconventional shale gas extraction on public health. He recruited three outside public health reviewers to help him with this task – Drs John Adgate, Lynn Goldmann and Richard Jackson. The first deadline required the regulations to be opened up again for a public comment period. Yet, the deadline came and went without a report. Instead, an extension to the process was announced. Dr. Shah was widely reported as wanting to meet with researchers from three ongoing studies on the health effects of high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) – the EPA study, the Geisinger Health System study and the University of Pennsylvania study. At first, this raised speculation that there would be an extension of the NYS moratorium on HVHF until at least the initial results of these investigations were available. However after meeting with researchers from the EPA and Geisinger groups, Dr. Shah announced he had no intention of waiting for the results, but would be ready with a report within weeks. [click to continue…]