Six US healthcare providers in drive for environmental
sustainability in hospitals
14 May 2010
Six leading US healthcare providers have formed the
Healthier Hospitals Initiative to help speed the healthcare sector
toward environmental sustainability.
The six providers: Advocate Health Care; Catholic Healthcare West;
Hospital Corporation of America (HCA, Inc.); Kaiser Permanente;
MedStar Health; and Partners Healthcare, have launched the
Healthier Hospitals Agenda, a document that outlines specific
activities that hospitals can take to reduce their environmental
footprint and improve health outcomes.
The overall goal of this national initiative is to use a
co-ordinated approach to achieve sustainability throughout the
healthcare sector, which will prevent environment-related illness,
create extraordinary environmental benefits, and save billions of
dollars in healthcare expenses.
"Collectively, the healthcare sector can stimulate the
marketplace to make more eco-friendly products available, and we can
inform public policies that support and facilitate the transition to
environmental sustainability," stated John Messervy, AIA, Director
of Capital & Facility Planning, Partners Healthcare Boston, MA.
"These measures can greatly reduce the overall costs of healthcare,
as well as help protect the health of our patients, staff and
The United States, as other developed countries, is experiencing
an epidemic of chronic disease, including cancer, diabetes, and
respiratory illnesses, which by government accounts, consumes almost
75% of healthcare expenditures.
There is increasing evidence that environmental contaminants,
pollution and emissions are linked to adverse health effects and
that addressing the global ecological crisis is a core component in
the prevention of chronic disease. On May 5, the President's Cancer
Panel stated that "the true burden of environmentally induced
cancers has been grossly underestimated," and advised that policies
be put in place to reduce chemical exposures.
The healthcare sector, comprising 16% of GNP in the US, has a
large environmental footprint. Hospitals are the second most energy
intensive buildings in the country. They generate 6,600 tons of
waste a day. They consume large amounts of water, operate food
services, and use chemical-based products for disinfecting,
cleaning, pest control and grounds keeping. They utilize fossil
fuels for transportation of patients, visitors, staff and supplies.
"Practicing good environmental stewardship is one way of
fulfilling our role as healthcare providers to the communities we
serve," stated Kathy Gerwig, Vice-President for Workplace Safety and
Environmental Stewardship Officer, Kaiser Permanente. "A sector-wide
approach to sustainability will provide the benefits of better
health not just in one community, but to the entire nation — by
reducing the overall disease burden of the population, and the
enormous financial and human toll associated with it."
Tenets of the Healthier Hospitals Agenda include the
- Improve environmental health and patient safety:
Engage in Environmentally Preferred Purchasing, reduce chemical
use, actively seek alternative sustainable products, engage in
green building, and purchase and serve healthy food and foods
made in sustainable ways.
- Reduce healthcare's use of natural resources and
generation of waste: Reduce consumption of energy,
water, and raw materials; and minimize waste. Engage in
inventory management, waste management and recycling programs;
transition to renewable energy sources; eliminate incineration;
and improve transportation strategies.
- Institutionalize sustainability and safety:
principles an organizational priority
with CEO-level support.
Integrate into all areas of the
organization and its activities,
internally and externally
through leadership, education, and
engagement in public policy and community
Encourage and incorporate sustainability as an essential element
in the culture of the organization.
Hospitals can demonstrate their support for the program by
becoming a sponsoring organization, or by signing a pledge of
endorsement, and participating in activities to implement the
Healthier Hospital Agenda in their institutions. They can also
participate in the online sharing of information and expertise and
collaborate with other healthcare institutions to encourage and
assist with sustainability efforts.
Three partner organizations — Health Care Without Harm, Practice
Greenhealth, and The Center for Health Design — will provide
expertise and technical assistance and will develop and implement
training and other programs to help hospitals carry out the HHI
agenda recommendations. Research conducted under the auspices of the
program will be overseen by the Health Care Without Harm
Research Collaborative, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson
The Healthier Hospitals Initiative:
The Healthier Hospitals Agenda: