CODA Change and Sustainable Healthcare.
Climate change is a pernicious environmental and health threat to humanity. Yet, healthcare itself pollutes, contributing to approximately 5% of total global anthropogenic emissions. What can be done to avoid this harm? Forbes McGain has spent 15 years undertaking research with colleagues to discover healthcare’s environmental footprint, with a particular emphasis upon practical efforts to reduce this environmental and economic burden. In this discussion we will hear of a series of micro, meso, and macro actions that each can contribute to reducing our carbon and other environmental footprints at work.
Mico: all clinicians have agency to avoid, reduce, reuse, and if none of these are possible, recycle. Further, efforts to provide excellent primary care such as preventing obesity, diabetes, and drug harms, and delivering vaccinations are integral to ameliorating healthcare’s environmental footprint. From titrating oxygen on the hospital wards to deliver enough, but no more for patients, to undertaking antibiotic stewardship (and switching from i.v. to oral preparations) there are actually many daily activities in healthcare that could reduce our environmental footprint whilst delivering ongoing safe patient care.
Meso: Collaboration is the key here! There are many low carbon healthcare activities that cannot be ameliorated without teamwork, for example at the GP clinic, hospital ward, or operating theatre level. A good example within hospitals are efforts to convert single use to reusable equipment. Although evidence is presented of the economic and environmental benefits of reusable anaesthesia equipment such information (and publications) has not lead to widespread adoption of such approaches. The importance of champions in each hospital and collaborating with clinical and non-clinical colleagues in hospitals is emphasized. Forming hospital environmental sustainability committees, and alliances with hospital executives and the board is vital.
Macro: Advocacy at the medical and nursing societal and colleges level to incorporate environmentally sustainable healthcare into routine clinical education, examinations, and research agendas is the work of concerted groups of clinicians. Influencing the various state, territory and national governments to develop/extend sustainable healthcare units will likewise form part of macro efforts. Joining the Doctors for the Environment, Australia (DEA), activating the ANMF and AMA to get involved in environmentally sustainable healthcare will augment such efforts.
Full Sails on Our Journey!
Forbes is an anaesthetist and intensive care physician at Western Health, Melbourne, Australia, and an A/Prof. (Medicine) at the Universities of Sydney, and Melbourne. Forbes remains passionate about making seemingly small environmental, financial and social sustainability changes to how we practice medicine, as well as that become magnified through every nations’ hospitals.
Forbes is currently collaborating with colleagues at the University of Melbourne and friends within the Doctors for the Environment (DEA) examining ways to make hospitals more sustainable and being stewards for earth’s extraordinary biodiversity.