July 22, 2024

Health Minds

Nourishing Minds, Elevating Health

Six steps the healthcare can take to minimise impact on environment

2 min read

The healthcare industry has a significant, under-discussed impact on the environment. According to a paper published in the Lancet, it is responsible for about 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a significant producer of waste.

Reducing the impact of healthcare on the environment is a particular concern in the United Arab Emirates as it prepares to host the global climate summit COP28 at Expo City Dubai later this year.

The President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has named 2023 as the Year of Sustainability. In line with that, healthcare groups are working towards improving sustainability and reducing healthcare’s environmental footprint.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an “environmentally sustainable health system” is one that “improves, maintains or restores health, while minimising negative impacts on the environment and leveraging opportunities to restore and improve it, to the benefit of the health and well-being of current and future generations.”

With this aspiration in mind, there are a number of steps the healthcare industry – and the individuals involved in it – can take to minimise its impact on the environment in this critical year.

Six steps to sustainability

  1. Reduce waste: according to the WHO, between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of waste produced in healthcare is comparable to domestic waste, meaning a large amount of it can be recycled. Healthcare facilities should develop and stick to waste reduction strategies that reduce and recycle as much as possible and safely dispose of medical supplies, equipment, and hazardous material.
  2. Energy efficiency: hospitals and medical centres consume a lot of energy, and reducing energy usage can help reduce healthcare’s environmental impact. Energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, and appliances can all help to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Upgrading to energy-efficient equipment and appliances, such as LED lights, can also help reduce energy consumption and reduce the carbon footprint of healthcare facilities.
  3. Transport: encouraging alternative modes of transport, such as public transportation, cycling, or walking, for healthcare staff and patients can help to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Hospitals can also replace ambulances with zero- or low-emission vehicles where possible.
  4. Sustainable procurement: healthcare facilities can help reduce their environmental impact by purchasing environmentally friendly products and sourcing supplies by developing efficient supply chains.
  5. Awareness and education: encouraging healthcare staff, patients, and the public to understand the importance of reducing the environmental impact of healthcare is key to creating lasting change.
  6. Telemedicine: recent advances have made it possible to provide medical care through remote communication. This can reduce the need for patients to travel to medical facilities, reducing emissions while improving access to healthcare.

 

Better global outcomes

The link between climate change and health is increasingly being demonstrated. The healthcare industry can improve long-term health outcomes by reducing its environmental impact. Following steps like these, therefore, is of critical importance.

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