05/02/2012 10:23 am ET Updated Jul 01, 2012

Can I Be Healthy if Someone Else Isn't?

Last week was a week of learning. Like most weeks, it involved everything from working with patients to meetings, and included activities with non-profits like Fair Trade USA, Equality Now and Women for Women. But no matter what I was doing, the learning seemed to be the same: Women and girls around the world, even in my own town, don't have control over their health.

Last week, I learned that for women and girls around the world, even in my own town, and in my home city, that they don't have control over their health. What's not being met are basic needs -- clean water, bathrooms or bathroom breaks, vision screenings or prescription eyeglasses - -and basic human kindness -- a teacher's help, not harm; a parent's support, not sale; or a community's trust, not violation. And what I also learned -- and what we all need to learn -- is that everything I do to optimize my health relates directly, is in fact, inextricably linked, to the health of the world's women and girls.

Whether buying an indulgence like chocolate and flowers or a staple food item like bananas, quinoa, coffee, tea or spices, my purchase will impact the people of the world and it's up to me to decide of the type of impact I want to have on their lives. If I purchase Fair Trade Certified products, I learned, I can help a community get vision and dental screenings. Something as simple as prescription glasses for coffee workers has the benefit not only of better vision and healthier eyes, but also allows an employee to work more safely when picking coffee, when cleaning leaves or when operating a machine. I learned that if I buy Fair Trade, children around the world may be schooled and learn history, and like I did, learn to ask questions and develop critical thinking skills. It's these skills that might push them to innovate their future careers, asking how can we ship products with less waste, how can we take care of our lands better, why does cancer come from a cell, ect.

What I really learned last week was to remember. Remember that that my health is NOT really just "mine" to nurture, to protect or to impact. My health is a product of everyone's health as well as the environment's health -- both today and in the future. I need to remember that if my health (and my family's, and my friends' and their family's) is important to me, then I must consider everyone's health every single time I purchase, practice, meditate and dream. Without Fair Trade, none of us would be here in our lives as they are today. Without Fair Trade, none of us can have a truly healthy future.

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