Keeping Lifecycles Healthy

Elise Miller, MEd

“Recycling” is a pretty commonplace word these days when it comes to cans and newspapers. But recycling is also considered one of the most brilliant inventions ever in evolutionary terms. In fact, as Dianne Dumanoski writes in her book, The End of the Long Summer, “Establishing these grand cycles [such as respiration and photosynthesis] was one of the great problems early life had to solve in order to have a future.” She adds, “Enduring life is inescapably a joint enterprise.”
Reading this book provoked me to reflect on CHE’s role in these “grand cycles” of life. Since CHE’s work is fundamentally a “joint enterprise,” what are we doing and what more can we do to reinforce, rather than inhibit, the energy that keeps these natural cycles running smoothly?

One significant new expression of CHE’s efforts to be in service of life and its myriad cycles is our new Healthy Aging and Environment Initiative. We see this program as complementing CHE’s Initiative on Children’s Environmental Health and underscoring the need to look at a range of interacting influences on human health throughout the life cycle—from conception to death. To lead this initiative, we are delighted to welcome Maria Valenti. Maria has been working on environmental health issues for almost two decades at Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility—most recently as program director for GBPSR and head of GBPSR’s healthy aging project.
CHE’s Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI) is also working to catalyze more research and awareness about the nexus between aging, environmental health and developmental disabilities. Towards that end, one of LDDI’s leading organizations, the Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, is hosting a teleconference series based on the report Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging, co-authored by Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, CHE’s science director; Jill Stein, MD; and Maria Valenti. The teleconference series started yesterday, but if you missed that you can sign up for the upcoming sessions on AAIDD’s teleconference webpage.
In addition, CHE co-sponsored an integrative pediatric health symposium, “Children First: Promoting Ecological Health for the Whole Child,” with the Whole Child Center and the University of California San Francisco’s Osher Center for Integrative Health earlier this month. The goal of the conference was to highlight various stressors that can influence early development and have lifelong health consequences. The UCSF auditorium was packed with health professionals, researchers, students, educators and others eager to hear prominent experts from diverse fields discuss how to create optimal and sustainable environments in which children can thrive. A number of the presentations were, in fact, so inspiring and resonating that many audience participants were moved to tears. To listen the audio recordings from the symposium and review PowerPoints and other relevant materials, please visit the symposium’s webpage.

From healthy pregnancies to healthy aging, CHE is committed to ensuring that humanity’s life cycles are supported and sustained in keeping with the “grand cycles” of life. We do this by providing various forums for discussing emerging science and by translating the best available science for the widest possible constituencies. Your expertise, critical thinking and insights add enormous value to our efforts. Please join us for our upcoming partnership calls and working group activities.

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