Delivering Healthcare & Doing No Harm

The age-old 'First, do no harm,' is ingrained in every healthcare professional's practice. Yet, in delivering healthcare, we often carelessly inflict harm on the one patient we all share – our planet. The very practices meant to protect human health may, ironically, be contributing to a broader health crisis by undermining our environment's sustainability.

Our health is fundamentally tied to the health of our environment. Clean air, safe drinking water, and a stable climate form the foundation of public health. Yet, our healthcare system contributes significantly to the degrading environment.

According to the Health Care Without Harm organization, if the healthcare sector were a country,
it would be the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases

While our planet can absorb some harm, its resilience has limits. Overstepping these bounds leads to environmental changes that harmfully impact human health.

Healthcare delivery systems, driven by outdated models, continue to generate excessive waste and emit vast amounts of greenhouse gases. Hospitals use immense amounts of energy, medical waste is often incinerated contributing to air pollution, and a large supply chain network also adds to the carbon emissions.

This is not just an environmental issue; it's a profound health issue as the consequences directly impact human lives.

The good news is sustainable healthcare is not an unrealistic concept, we can deliver quality care without harming the environment. Here are a few more sustainable healthcare initiatives;

  1. To begin, better procurement practices could reduce environmental harm significantly. By sourcing more eco-friendly products and ensuring a sustainable supply chain, hospitals can substantially lower their carbon footprint.
  2. Choosing local suppliers also plays a crucial role. Not only does it reduce transportation emissions, but it also supports local economies and helps build resilient communities. For instance, sourcing locally manufactured medical devices not only provides high-quality patient care but supports local businesses, offering local employment and reducing transport carbon emissions.
  3. Beyond procurement, strategies like implementing effective waste management systems and optimizing energy use can help in creating a more sustainable healthcare model. Many of these practices have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating that a greener healthcare system is not only feasible but also more resilient in the face of global health threats.

The responsibility to promote sustainable healthcare practices falls on all of us. As healthcare providers, we must consider our environmental footprint, rethink our current practices, and make sustainable changes where needed. Patients, too, can help by choosing providers committed to sustainability and making environmentally conscious choices in their personal lives.

In the quest to protect human health, we must ensure that our practices do not contribute to a broader environmental and health crisis. The journey towards sustainable healthcare is one we cannot afford to ignore. With every small step we take, we are not just protecting the planet, but we are also ensuring a healthier future for all of us. The question is no longer whether we can deliver healthcare without doing harm but how soon we can start.

In the end, a healthier planet means healthier people. As healthcare providers, that's the most significant outcome we can strive for.

Healthcare shouldn't harm the planet.
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