It is estimated that heath care spending will rise to almost 20% of our national GDP by 2026 (source). Imagine if that spending power was leveraged to reduce health care’s environmental footprint while transforming people’s health and the health of their community. Furthermore, a recent study (Eckelman et al. 2020) found that greenhouse gas emissions from the health care sector rose in the last decade and now accounts for over 8% of total US emissions. Below we summarize two organizations working to integrate sustainability into health care operations.
Practice Greenhealth is a membership based organization. It provides resources and solutions to incorporate sustainability within hospital and health care settings to reduce the environmental impact while benefiting patients, staff, and the organization’s financial security (learn more here). They categorize the issues for accomplishing their mission into 12 topics such as Energy, Sustainable Procurement, Greening the Operating Room, Food, Chemicals and more (see full list). For example, Practice Greenhealth works to eliminate or reduce hazardous chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives thus reducing exposure to staff and patients. HSC Sustainability is currently evaluating the possibility of membership as an academic institution. If you’re interested in accessing Practice Greenhealth’s resources through our potential membership, please contact us expressing your interest.
Health Care Without Harm
Health Care Without Harm’s goals are to “protect public health from climate change, transform the supply chain, and build leadership for environmental health” (see their mission and goals). Like Practice Greenhealth they focus on various topics including buildings, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and food to name a few. They also have several ways to get involved including a physician network (see ways to get involved). Their YouTube channel features several videos including their “Do No Harm” video which is an animated, three minute video showing how heath care can create a healthier and more sustainable world (see video here).
Want to be part of the sustainability in health care movement? Here are a two suggestions on how to get started:
Be Informed – Sign up for Practice GreenHealth’s newsletter and/or Healthcare Without Harm’s newsletter to keep up to do date (also sign up for HSC Sustainability’s newsletter). Additionally, the World Heath Organization and Health Care Without Harm have a publication, “Healthy Hospitals, Health Planet, Health People: Addressing Climate Change in Health Care Settings” (full download here). Although it is from 2009, it discusses the issues still relevant today. Also, see this publication, Climate Change and Health: Is There a Role for the Health Care Sector” (full download here).
Get Involved – If you work in the health care sector, see if your employer will join one of these organizations or join one as an individual. There’s even an annual conference called CleanMed you can attend. If you do not work in health care, chances are you participate in the system somehow. Next visit, ask your doctor if they have any sustainability goals, encourage them to offer recycling, or simply mention the issues to them. Simply talking about it and letting your practitioners and employers know about your interests can spark movement.