A Report on the 2006 National CHE Conference

CHE Partner Bobbi Kimball, RN, MBA
Bolinas, California

A Quiet Environmental Revolution Begins in Bolinas 

The first time I visited Commonweal was in the mid 70s when a friend took me to see a demonstration organic garden and new pioneering work in biofeedback.  The second time I visited Commonweal was in the early-80’s to learn more about the Cancer Self Help Program and Michael Lerner’s seminal research on alternative therapies. Two years ago I joined Commonweal’s Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), a growing partnership of over 2300 individuals and organizations who share the common goal of improving human health by reducing exposure to toxicants in our bodies and the environment.

CHE’s purpose is to bring people together to further constructive debate and cooperative efforts, to foster productive action and to disseminate the best scientific information about these concerns.  That purpose was significantly advanced last Friday at CHE’s national conference in San Francisco.  The opening presentations by Phil Lee, MD, and Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, stretched the minds and hearts of around 200 participants from across the US and even the European Union.  They offered new ways to consider prevention, causation and ecological health as a complex system with significant impacts on health and disease. They spoke to the urgent need to bridge and integrate public health and the science of medicine. Presenting new data on biomonitoring, there was a realization that the environment is not just “out there” surrounding us, it is truly “within us” as living beings.  As a young girl, I grew up with my father’s passion for his career as an environmental scientist.  I was called to become a nurse, a healer.  At the conference, I sat with the realization that our separate journeys had converged in a most profound way.

The rest of the day was filled with 20 concise and fact-filled presentations from renowned scientists, physicians, policy makers and consumer advocates.  The relationship and measurable impact of toxins and chemicals present in our environment to the common diseases of asthma, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes were presented again and again. How much evidence do we need to take action? Efficiently and humorously moderated by Steve Heilig, the co-presentations pairing solid scientific data by lead researchers with the work of articulate and passionate consumer advocates on the topics of infertility, autism, Parkinson’s and air pollution’s effects on health were riveting.  When Michael Lerner closed the conference promptly at 6pm, the room was still full and the audience reluctant to leave.  

Rarely have I been to a conference that included such a broad cross section of scientists, health professionals, community organizations, health affected individuals and groups, government and public health representatives, funders and policy makers.  The knowledge that we are all working on these issues from different perspectives but in a collaborative fashion was powerful.  CHE has created a real working partnership that is producing amazing results.  The revolution to improve human health by reducing exposure to toxicants in our bodies and the environment has begun…and it started at Commonweal in Bolinas.

Join CHE at www.HealthandEnvironment.org.  It is free and your participation can be passive or as active as you desire.  You can easily stay informed online or choose to participate in monthly conference calls or join a working group.

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