Sustainable Earth Institute team lead: Professor Janet Richardson
Exploring women’s experiences of the antenatal expression of colostrum, and the impact on their breastfeeding duration: Issues for Sustainability
A healthcare system with no financial, social or environmental resource limits (Sustainable Development Unit, 2017) is the utopian vision. Sustainability is about attention to our future (Davies et al. 2011), therefore finding synonymy within contemporary midwifery practice.
Breastfeeding attrition rates in the UK greatly increase the use of plastic within health: a non-renewable, and, in part, nonrecyclable resource. Increased energy consumption occurs to sustain the production of single use plastic items such as bottles and teats, but also to accommodate the need for electricity to refrigerate and maintain sterility whilst nourishing some of the nation’s most vulnerable. Feeding infants artificial formula also places extra demand on agricultural farming. Industrial farms contribute to air pollution, and encouraging breastfeeding initiation and continuation could decrease this pollution, a need recognised by the European Commission (2015).
Breastfeeding is considered a naturally renewable resource (The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust, 2016), as there is no packaging, shipping or disposal costs. Such resources in health care are eagerly desired, but the reality is that the most food-mile friendly product there is (Burbidge, 2016) is already entirely accessible to the health service. The research proposed aims to explore women’s experiences of antenatal expressing and whether they felt it impacted on their breastfeeding duration. Increasing breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates is a sustainability issue and any tool explored to aid these rates would be of great beneft to the current healthcare system. It is accepted that an increase in breastfeeding will improve the overall health of the nation, and therefore reduce long term costs to the health service (Renfrew et al. 2012), which is currently in an unsustainable position.
With the changes in global climate causing an amplification of health problems (World Health Organisation, 2017), breastfeeding can produce a welcome reduction in the rates of non communicable diseases, and their future use of unsustainable medical supplies, such as: diabetes, asthma, and female cancers. Climate change may result in earlier appearance of seasonal aeroallergens (Health Protection Agency, 2012), for which the protection from asthma by breastfeeding would be beneficial. The longevity of breastfeeding enables natural family spacing, resulting in a degree of population control, while the cessation of menstruation experienced during breastfeeding would further reduce the use of resources, and the landfill disposal incurred, from sanitary products. The empowerment of women recognised from breastfeeding could also aid world equality, alongside recognised economic and health benefits (The Lancet, 2016).
Commitment to sustainability is evolving, and several inﬂuencing factors are shaping health care attitudes and practices (Barts Health, 2013). Responsibility for environmental factors in health care is shared (Kangasniemi et al. 2013), and it is recognised that sustainability should be included in health subject curriculums (Richardson et al. 2015) to inform practice, not just literature.
Applying this to UK breastfeeding rates, if such a poignant instrument for sustainability progression is already in existence, and just requires further establishing, an attitude of complacency may be an easy strategy but not an acceptable one (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, 2017).
Can Functional Imagery Training reduce plastic bottle purchasing?
Functional Imagery Training (FIT) is a new theory-based intervention that strengthens positive goal imagery to increase goal motivation and achievement. Previous research has demonstrated that Functional Imagery Training (FIT) is a successful intervention for reducing snacking. This study examined whether FIT would also be successful at reducing plastic bottle purchasing. Thirty four participants who wanted to reduce their plastic bottle use were randomly assigned to receive an immediate session of FIT or a delayed session. Plastic bottle purchasing was assessed using timeline follow back at baseline, two weeks and four weeks. Plastic bottle purchasing decreased over time but there was no significant difference in purchasing between the immediate and delayed group. These findings suggest that FIT is unsuccessful as an intervention to increase proenvironmental behaviour.
Sustainable Earth Institute lead: Professor Sabine Pahl
Bringing the natural world to work: can 360° videos of nature and virtual reality technology help tackle work-related stress and increase performance?
Work-related stress (WRS) is a problem for organisations, with a prevalence rate of 1,510 workers per 10,000 (HSE, 2016). A total of 11.7 million working days are lost per year due to WRS which is estimated to cost £26 billion per year. Work-related stress has numerous detrimental effects on employees’ wellbeing. Research shows that nature is effective at reducing stress. Virtual Reality (VR) technology and nature have been combined to make nature more accessible. The current study uses 360° videos of a Natural and Offce environment in conjunction with VR technology to establish whether this would be an effective intervention for organisations to implement to help reduce and protect against WRS; as well as exploring whether nature can help to increase workplace performance. A total of 32 undergraduate psychology students participated. The PASAT-C was used to induce stress and measure performance, the Felt Arousal Scale and Feeling Scales were used to measure participants stress levels. Results show that the nature video significantly reduced stress, however, this effect was only temporary suggesting nature does not offer protection against WRS. Neither 360° video had a significant effect on PASAT-C performance. This study was conducted in a laboratory setting, therefore limiting the generalisability of the results to real life working environments. Findings suggest that organisations could offer 360° videos and VR technology to their employees as a way for them to relieve stress throughout their working day. Limitations of the current study and directions for future research are discussed.
Sustainable Earth Institute lead: Dr Clare Pettinger
The new Eatwell Guide and environmentally sustainable meat consumption in low-income groups
With the ever-increasing population comes increasing strain on our food and health systems, and the environment. Diets high in red and processed meat exceed recommended levels in the UK and are associated with poorer health as well as contributing to a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions through livestock production. Poorer quality diets are more commonly seen in population groups with lower incomes, owing to social inequalities such as lack of knowledge and skills. The recently updated ‘Eatwell guide’, the UK government’s dietary guidelines, incorporates recommendations for more sustainable eating behaviours, including reduced red and processed meat consumption and promotion of non-meat proteins such as beans and pulses. Although such changes could bring about improved health and reductions in carbon footprints, there may be issues adhering to such a diet, particularly for lower income populations due to complex social and economic factors. The assignment discusses the barriers faced by low-income groups in achieving more
sustainable meat consumption behaviours, and concludes by highlighting the importance of stakeholder collaboration within the food system (producers, retailers, public health workers, dietitians) in order that changes are made at a local, national and policy level. Awareness and improved knowledge of this topic amongst dietitians is key in order that action is taken and sustainable eating messages are communicated effectively across the social gradient.