World Health Day 2022: Healthcare & The Environment
We are proud to launch a new initiative to plant a tree for every new Medbelle patient. As we watch our new Medbelle forest grow, find out about the environmental impact of the healthcare industry and why it is still possible to reduce emissions while raising the standard of healthcare.
Written by Cory Jones
Published: Thursday, 7 April 2022
World Health Day is an annual global health awareness day sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This year's theme is Our Planet, Our Health. It seeks to improve global health and wellbeing by promoting urgent actions to fight pollution and the climate crisis.
Pollution is a major cause of numerous human health issues such as cancer, asthma, and heart disease. The WHO estimates that there are around 13 million deaths globally due to avoidable environmental causes, so fighting to reduce our environmental impact can help to improve the livelihoods of people around the world today, as well as save future generations. It is clear that this climate crisis is also a health crisis.
We are using this day as an opportunity to investigate our own environmental impact and that of the healthcare industry more generally. Healthcare is an essential industry. Our society should never have to sacrifice our ability or efficiency to save and improve lives, but many experts acknowledge that there are various ways in which healthcare's impact on the environment can be improved. These might include the production of pharmaceuticals, the transport and logistics, the reduction of single-use equipment, or even finding more responsible food to serve in hospitals.
Healthcare makes up for around 8% of the UK's environmental impact, and reducing that can help to avoid the grimly ironic possibility that the healthcare industry could contribute to the very pollution that leads to ill-health while simultaneously trying to cure it.
Healthcare & the environment
The NHS is already taking positive steps to reduce its carbon footprint and is looking to become net-zero by 2040. Local NHS trusts are finding inventive ways to cut emissions, like partnering with local bus services to reduce individual care or taxi journeys. Initiatives like NHS Sustainability Day and more efficient use of resources has led to the NHS reducing its carbon emissions by 30% since 2010, despite the continued increased activity. These are positive steps in the right direction.
However, in the UK, the environmental impact of our healthcare industry remains a low priority for most people. While people generally support the NHS's ambition for net-zero emissions, factors such as 'reducing waiting times', 'hiring additional staff' and 'improving staff morale and reducing burnout' are the most significant concerns for the state of UK Healthcare today. While waiting times and workloads are justifiably essential concerns in the eyes of the public, they are not wholly disconnected from environmental issues. Adverse weather can disrupt care delivery or emergency services; pollution will continue to increase the number of vascular illnesses, and workloads and waiting times will only increase as a result.
This year, World Health Day hopes to increase the public's understanding of the connection between health concerns and environmental concerns. Afterall, it is possible to fight on many fronts simultaneously. We can continue to raise the standard of healthcare while also finding ways to reduce our emissions and fight climate change.
What can we do?
With this knowledge of the link between our planet's health and ours, we want to use World Health Day as a springboard to launch new environmental initiatives at Medbelle. We are still a small company and we realise that our impact is limited, but we must make the best use of the influence we have, as individuals and as a company.
We sent out an employee survey to our office staff looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint in the office. As a result, we have made new commitments to reduce our plastic intake, improve awareness of proper food storage to minimise food waste and create more reminders to switch off monitors and appliances at the end of the working day.
We are also introducing new initiatives to our business practices with a greater emphasis on sustainability. As a digital hospital, we already approach healthcare in a unique way. Our digitised processes allow us to be almost paperless and we already have Virtual Consultations to help reduce unnecessary travel. Furthermore, we will continue to find new, more sustainable transport methods for our patients for any face-to-face consultations. We are also launching new, more sustainable care packages for patients and onboarding packages for our surgeons, which now source everything from independent brands and partners with a greater commitment to waste reduction and sustainability.
And finally, we are proud to introduce our new initiative to plant a tree for every Medbelle procedure. From now on, every Medbelle patient will receive certification of a planted tree in their name, and we look forward to watching our own Medbelle forest grow.
This year, World Health Day raises awareness of the links between our health and that of our planet. Healthcare remains an essential industry and its vital life-changing and lifesaving services must not be compromised. However, there are still countless ways for us as members of the healthcare sector to reduce our carbon footprint. Be it recycling medicine packaging, providing more sustainable food for hospitals and offices, switching to low emissions ambulances or power suppliers or even committing to building back this country’s green spaces; we all should be playing our part. The NHS is committed to ambitious goals to reduce emissions, we believe that everyone in the British healthcare sector should find ways to contribute to this bold vision. Indeed, rather than hindering healthcare efficiency, cutting our emissions and reducing pollution may in fact be the most important contribution any of us can make for the future health of humanity.
For more information, you can find the sources listed below. Or, register for this free course from e-learning for healthcare on more environmentally sustainable healthcare practices: https://www.e-lfh.org.uk/programmes/environmentally-sustainable-healthcare/