News & Media News The Greening of Medicine

The Greening of Medicine

By Ray Moynihan

This paper in the British Medical Journal explores early preparations for a low carbon health system
The following are excerpts:
The depth of the climate crisis has finally forced the spotlight of mainstream environmental scrutiny on medicine, quickly diagnosing the need to dramatically cut healthcare’s unhealthy carbon footprint In England the National Health Service is believed to contribute a quarter of all public sector emissions, a footprint mandated to shrink by more than 80% within four decades. Globally, the greening of medicine is also scaling the policy agenda. A special climate and health summit was held last month in Durban, South Africa, to coincide with the latest international talks on fighting global warming.
10 goals for greening hospitals and health systems
• Prioritise environmental health
• Substitute harmful chemicals with safer alternatives
• Reduce and safely dispose of waste
• Use energy efficiently and switch to renewable energy
• Reduce water consumption
• Improve travel strategies
• Purchase and serve sustainably grown food
• Safely manage and dispose of pharmaceuticals
• Adopt greener building design and construction
• Purchase safer more sustainable products
“Less is more,” says David Pencheon, summing up recommendations in a raft of recent reports from the NHS’s Sustainable Development Unit, which he runs. Along with doing less, Dr Pencheon says making workplaces more energy efficient, moving towards more active methods of travel such as cycling, and assessing the environmental impact of what’s bought and used are key strategies that are starting to be implemented to varying degrees across the sector—albeit tentatively.
Read the full paper