Portrait of Shivapriya Sudhakaran Nair

Through an environmental philosophy class called The Perennial Turn, Priya was fortunate to be exposed to different models and approaches to healthcare in Vermont. As part of the ‘Health and Wellness’ cohort, she was tasked with conducting in-depth interviews with various healthcare professionals, ranging from a co-director of Metta Earth to a family physician working in Bristol.

A common and emerging theme that arose from these conversations was a sense of isolation that many were experiencing as they were trapped within a hyper individualistic culture. Especially apparent through the pandemic, many people felt a notable disconnect from their natural environments, and most did not have the means to access clean water, fresh food, connection to nature or programs to decrease stress.

Priya learned how health care professionals have been shifting their service models to more holistic care, which emphasises a need for community support, relationships to nature, easier access to wider healthcare services and addressing the inequities that perpetually render some more vulnerable to illness and disease. Decades of experience highlighted very similar and repetitive patterns over time, where treating pain, mental illness, or suffering without addressing the full context of a person does not lead to desirable health outcomes in the long term. In essence, there is a need to address what we call the “social and structural determinants of health” that we discuss in almost every Global Health class.