Our colleague from down under, Michelle Johnston, MBBS, is correct that we EPs need to do our part to control climate change and protect the health and welfare of those for whom we took an oath. (“In Courage, Hope for a Better Future,” EMN. 2019;41:22; http://bit.ly/34FKEqw.) As long as a decade ago, the United Nations stated that the single best thing a person could do to minimize climate change was to adopt a plant-based diet. (The Guardian. June 2, 2010; http://bit.ly/37FvvXB.) This is reiterated in its current ActNow campaign, in which plant-based food is the very first thing listed. (United Nations. http://bit.ly/39BNBv5.)
The American Dietetic Association has been touting a plant-based diet for a decade as well. (J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:1266; http://bit.ly/39z49E8.) A plant-based diet is associated with a lower incidence of ischemic heart disease, lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, lower BMI, and lower overall cancer rates. This is a no-brainer: Save your health and the planet too.
Fortunately, there are wonderful movies out there to explain this to our patients. Initially, I recommended “Forks over Knives,” which also has a wonderful website by the same name listing many delicious recipes. “What the Health” came out a few years ago, and “The Game Changers” came out on Netflix a few months ago. I never thought I'd live to see the day in which Arnold Schwarzenegger promoted a plant-based diet. After two hospitals told me that I could not include this on a patient's discharge papers, I started stamping it on the GoodRx cards I gave them or writing it on a paper towel. Considering how few people read their discharge instructions, this is probably more effective anyway.
We physicians can't make the same mistake we did with smoking. As Dr. Johnston stated in her article, “Nobody has more basic rights than another, and what we do in our lucky Western lives intimately affects those for whom the wheel of fortune has spun less favorably.” We are the trendsetters, and with that comes responsibility. If you're still a meat lover, read the articles, watch the movies, and start with Meatless Mondays. If you believe in climate change but are waiting for the government to solve the problem, don't.
As Dr Johnston said, muster the courage, and motivate your patients to save the planet and their health as well.
Andrew Risner, MD