Briefing Paper: Environmentally Sustainable Healthcare

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Healthy changes can help address climate challenge

A health system with greater focus on preventing illness and promoting health, the judicious use of resources, less waste and low-carbon models of care will have health, financial and environmental benefits across Australia. Peter Sainsbury President of CAHA and DEA member Kate Charlesworth detail the action all doctors can take. Read the article in the Examiner.

Of Places, Faces, and Stories: What can the Environment and Health movement learn from Global Health?

“Humanism, I strongly believe, must excavate the silences, the world of memory, of itinerant, barely surviving groups, the places of exclusion and invisibility, the kind of testimony that doesn't make it onto the reports but which more and more is about whether an overexploited environment, sustainable small economies and small nations, and marginalised peoples outside as well as inside the maw of the metropolitan centre can survive the grinding down and flattening out and displacement that are such prominent features of globalisation." Edward W Said

SA’s new State Public Health Plan

Each state is responsible for developing a plan to address the health harms of climate change and  as expected  there are varying degrees of action. In SA the DEA committee has been involved in consultations and their submissions and suggestions are detailed here

Summary framework for consultation: SA DRAFT State Public Health Plan 2019-2024

South Australia's second state public health plan is currently under development. The DEA(SA) committee recently prepared a submission commenting on the draft summary framework for the new plan, highlighting opportunities for increased consideration of environmental health issues and the need for a 'climate and health in all policies' approach. DEA(SA) has offered to provide ongoing input during the development of the new plan, with a draft expected in August 2018.

The Doctor as Leader in Sustainable Healthcare, Dr David Pencheon

This is an armchair medical recording of Dr David Pencheon OBE speaking at the Western Sydney Forum during his recent tour of Australia. Dr Pencheon is the founding Director of the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England (www.sduhealth.org.uk). The SDU was established in 2007 with the task of ensuring the NHS operated in an environmentally sustainable way – starting with reducing its carbon emissions. Between 2007 and 2015 the NHS reduced its carbon emissions by 11% – exceeding the 10% target set in 2009, despite health and care activity increasing by 18%. This represents a saving of £1.85bn, and more broadly, the first steps in a transition towards a sustainable and resilient health and care system.

DEA commends the AMA for supporting the Uluru statement

Doctors across the nation will commend the AMA President Dr Tony Bartone for his support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. DEA believes that the need for Constitutional reform as expressed in this Statement will help to remove from our nation the stain of dispossession and neglect and will be an important step in improving the health and well being of Aboriginal people. READ ON

The Conversation: Five ways hospitals can reduce their environmental footprint

Our healthcare sector produces 7% of Australia's emissions. Hospitals are only responsible for half of that, but there are many ways to reduce their environmental footprint and improve sustainability. DEA's Dr Forbes McGain, an expert in sustainability, outlines five of them.

Video: The story of Green Hospitals

DEA is proud to bring you the Story of Green Hospitals, a must-view short video on sustainable healthcare by our talented medical student members!  While hospitals are designed to improve health, they also contribute to the burden of disease because of their significant environmental footprint. There are a range of practical solutions that hospitals can adopt to improve health outcomes for people and planet, as well as reduce costs to the healthcare budget. View now!

An Australian Healthcare Sustainability Unit (HSU)  - DEA Proposal

A Healthcare Sustainability Unit (HSU) would assist the Australian health care system (primary, secondary and tertiary) to deliver quality health care in environmentally and financially sustainable ways. A HSU could lead research, policy development, system changes and education of staff, fulfilling a central national co-ordinating role for maximum effectiveness and successful implementation of initiatives at state, regional, health network, hospital and practice levels.

Download the DEA HSU Proposal 05-18

Improving a hospital’s environmental impact: what can a doctor do?

To initiate change within large highly structured organisations such as hospitals is not easy. Doctors for the Environment Australia’s (DEA) practical guide therefore aims to identify areas where change can most easily be initiated to improve a hospital’s environmental impact. Though some suggestions may be seemingly trivial, experience indicates that all of the suggestions in this guide can have a positive impact on environmental outcomes and that doctors can help instigate change. 58% of the NHS’s 2015 CO2 emissions were from the procurement of goods and services (15% medical drugs) whilst powering of buildings contributed to 20% of emissions and staff and patient travel 12%.

Download the DEA Sustainable Hospitals Guide - practical assistance

Why greening healthcare is essential for health

While general practice has a relatively small environmental footprint, its role is important in the broader context of sustainability... Sustainability in health is more than just about “greening” the health sector, although environmental sustainability is an important consideration. A sustainable health and care system needs to be able to go on forever within the limits of financial, social and environmental resources. It needs to deliver high-quality care and improved public health without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage. Read full article in the Medical Republic or on the DEA website.

ABC 4Corners: While politicians question the reality of climate change, farmers and businesses act

On Monday evening ABC’s 4 Corners aired an episode ‘Weather Alert’ looking at how Australia’s changing climate is impacting people.  Mounting evidence suggests our changing climate is having an impact on everything - from what we grow, eat and drink, to house prices and the cost of insurance. Doctors for the Environment Australia provided the health segment for rising temperatures also have a significant, often ignored, impact on health.

SA Health on the Review of the State Public Health Plan - South Australia: A Better Place to Live

In this submission DEA analyses the current SA public health plan in the light of our submission; A Better Place to Live 2013.
We conclude it is necessary to show more urgency in climate change mitigation, to bring climate change into all policies and to work for national coordination through the development of a National Environmental Protection Agency.

Doctors alarmed, but not surprised, at data estimating the significant carbon footprint of our health care system

Doctors are alarmed, but not surprised, at data estimating the significant carbon footprint of our health care system - over 7% of Australia’s total carbon footprint.

Current and future impacts of climate change on housing, buildings and infrastructure submission

….It is also increasingly apparent that, even with a 2°C rise, the world will be greatly changed from present, with economic budgets greatly stressed by reparation of infrastructure and all the pillars of life, water, food, air quality and biodiversity-resilience under stress and facing likely deterioration…..

Media Release: Doctor training needs to step up on climate change, urge health experts

Universities and professional organisations must better prepare doctors and medical students to deal with the impacts of climate change, urge Australia’s leading medics.

Making our health system more sustainable

Making our health system more sustainable: An ideas paper for the Commissioner of Environmental Sustainability, Victoria

Promoting change to contain our health costs

This article by DEA Member Eugenie Kayak was published in Medical Observer 8th October 2013 and appears under a Creative Commons licence.

Sustainable Anaesthesia is important to medical research and to climate change

In the May 2012 edition of the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia there are a number of “highly sustainable” articles to be read. I commend you to peruse this edition of the aforementioned journal neither because it’s interesting nor because Forbes McGain et al wrote 3 of the articles! Instead such publications in the mainstream, peer reviewed medical literature indicates that sustainability, resource use and climate change are attracting attention in the world of medical research and because such interest adds to advocacy efforts.

Heat stroke, climate change and the elderly

The increased attention to this topic in Australia and North America reflects the increasing incidence of heat deaths and the need for public health and community measures to address the issue.

The Greening of Medicine

By Ray Moynihan

Healthy hospitals, healthy planet, healthy people

This 2009 draft discussion paper published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is based on the WHO’s mandate from member states to develop “programmes for health systems that will contribute to reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions”.

Hospitals & Sustainability

Co-authored by Brenton Burger and Peter Newman, the latter being Dean of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute and a member of DEA’s Scientific Committee.

DEA Guide to Greening Your Hospital

Download this pdf article using the link on your right.

Sustainable Hospitals – Response to Victorian Climate Change Green Paper

Doctors for the Environment Australia has a “green hospitals group” and is taking an increasing interest in promoting action to reduce the carbon footprint of hospitals.

Green Doctors – Anaesthetic Life

The following article was authored by DEA Victorian chair Dr Eugenie Kayak.  An earlier version first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 editions of Anaesthetic Life & Surgical Life – publications of Medical Life Publishing.  We thank them for permission to present the article here.

Greening your Hospital: some useful sites for information

Doctors for the Environment Australia has had many requests for help from members regarding sustainability in their hospitals. Most say that it is difficult to find sources of information.



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