The story of the Sambhavna Clinic, a non-profit holistic health clinic in Bhopal, India, built to treat those injured by the Union Carbide toxic gas release in 1984. enlarge video
HCWH's co-founder Gary Cohen is a recipient of the prestigious Skoll Award. This video, chronicling the evolution of HCWH's work, premiered at the 2009 Skoll World Forum. enlarge video
Environmentally Responsible Health Care
Sustainable development is a concept vital to healthcare: as major users of natural resources and toxic materials, hospitals make a dramatic contribution to society's ecological footprint.
What are the criteria for a healthy environment? Culturally, there are varied understandings of what constitutes a sustainable, healthy environment. Healthcare directly affects many of these.
HCWH Europe considers the criteria proposed by the Swedish Environment Agency as some of the broadest: where they cite 16 factors, other countries perhaps only genuinely recognise as few as three or four — climate, ozone and sustainable forests being the most widely accepted.
By using excess energy, polluting the environment with phthalates, mercury and other toxic chemicals, and producing waste which is burned instead of recycled, healthcare is ultimately compromising public health and damaging the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
It doesn't have to be this way. Hospitals all over the world are discovering that energy use can be drastically reduced, that PVC and phthalates aren't a necessary environmental evil in delivering the best patient care, that mercury can be eliminated, that food can be sustainably sourced.
HCWH Europe is committed to driving the green revolution in healthcare, making the connection between good health and a clean environment, and positioning healthcare's core principle of "first, do no harm" as a central pillar of sustainable society.
Two members of HCWH Europe provide striking examples of an environmentally responsible approach to healthcare:
Vienna Hospital Association, AustriaThe 14,500-bed hospital group is using green procurement policies to eliminate PVC from its neonatal departments, is building to green standards which include saving energy by using natural light and ventilation, and is serving fresh food made with locally-sourced, organic ingredients.
Karolinska University Hospital, SwedenA comprehensive waste segregation programme minimises infectious waste, saving money and maximising material available for recycling; is eliminating PVC, especially in medical devices used on young children and babies.
Karolinska no longer uses mercury measuring devices, and has a sustainable food programme delivering healthier, tastier, locally-sourced meals to patients.
- Addressing Climate Change in the Health Care Setting: Opportunites for Action (pdf)
Outlines seven steps health care systems can take to reduce their climate footprint while improving public health, and presents examples from around the world
- Better Food, Better Health, Better Environment: The Benefits of Sustainable Food Procurement in Hospitals (pdf)
- Carbon Reduction for Health Systems
Learn more at the website of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, UK
- Co-Benefits to Health of a Strong EU Climate Change Policy (pdf)
- Healthy Hospitals, Healthy Planet, Healthy People: Addressing Climate Change in Health Care Settings (pdf)
Aims at addressing the climate footprint of the health sector
- Lancet Series report on Health and Climate Change (pdf)
- Making the Case for Policy Makers (pdf)
- World Health Organization website for information about Climate and Health