The health of each of us isn’t some simple result of a single cause. But, we have all been taught to think of health as a thing like a building, to which we only need pay attention if the foundation is crumbling or there’s a flood in the basement.
But our health is created and supported or degraded and undermined with every second that we live. And there is no simple set of causes that supports or degrades our health. As you can see from the picture above, our personal health is a system, operating in an environment both inside and outside us.
We can’t take complete responsibility for our own health since it depends on many things we can’t control. But together as a community, we can begin to shift the things we can’t control so that they support our health more effectively.
In particular, people with disabilities are coming to understand that changes in the larger environment can have a personal effect on their health. These changes don’t just work through disease causes like bacteria and viruses. They also work through stress on all the systems in our bodies, including emotional and brain-related.
I’ve posted material on the impact that gut organisms have on autoimmune disorders and mental disorders like depression. Imagine those causes of ill health as including the whole of your environment, from chemical to biological, social, emotional, neurological, and even spiritual. It is the whole environment that should be the target of our common work to build the health of ourselves and our communities.
The World Institute on Disability (WID) has been working on a project to expand our disability justice advocacy to include the impact of environmental change on people with disabilities. First and foremost, WID is focusing on emergency preparation by people with disabilities for disasters. People with disabilities are just beginning to have an impact on disaster preparation and public health emergency planning in their local communities and are at the table for regional, state, and national planning.
Emergency preparation is a good place for disability activists to start taking control of the future of their health. A way to learn some basics about how the government thinks about emergency preparation and our community is to scan Emergency Preparedness Resources for Persons with Disabilities.
The resource below is a technical one that talks about research looking at the way the different contributors to our health interact with one another. It’s an article about health as a system, and you might find it interesting.