Knowledge Exchange Between China and US to Foster Environmentally Sustainable Health Care

Identifying opportunities to address climate change and improve health

San Francisco – In a people-to-people exchange, a delegation from the Chinese health sector met in September 2016 with Health Care Without Harm and several major U.S. health systems to identify strategies to address climate change and foster green, environmentally sustainable, climate-resilient health care in both countries.

Hosted by Health Care Without Harm, the meeting included the members of Chinese delegation headed by Mr. Yang Hongwei, Deputy Director General of the China National Health Development Research Center, and several members of the U.S. Health Care Climate Council, including Dignity Health, Gundersen Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Partners Healthcare, and Virginia Mason. The visit was supported in part by the U.S. State Department’s People to People Exchange program.

In addition to meeting with the health systems, the Chinese delegation toured Bay Area hospitals to learn how US health care systems are implementing sustainability strategies while working for better health outcomes.

“This marks the beginning of a collaboration between health sectors in our two countries to make health care greener and more environmentally friendly, while protecting public health from climate change,” said Josh Karliner, International Director of Program and Strategy for Health Care Without Harm. “The fact that the Presidents of both countries have prioritized addressing climate change creates space for the health sectors in China and the United States to step up together to address one of the greatest health challenges of our time.”

Leading scientists and public health experts recognize that climate change will impact the health of billions of people around the world. Whether it’s heat related deaths, respiratory diseases, the spread of malaria, Zika virus and Dengue fever, water-borne diseases, or the prospect of millions more refugees, climate change has transformed from an environmental problem in the distant future to an immediate global health threat affecting everyone.

Historically, the United States has been the top emitter and leads the world in per capita emissions of greenhouse gasses. It is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases today. U.S. health care is responsible for nearly 10% of current emissions – or 655 million metric tons – the equivalent of the entire United Kingdom’s contribution to climate change. China also faces similar problems.

Representing close to 6% of China’s and 18% of the United States’ economy, the health care sector can play a leading role in moving both societies in a transition to a more sustainable, environmentally friendly future.

“In China we have launched several research projects to identify a route map to greener health care buildings, operations and service delivery in our national system,” said Mr. Yang Hongwei, Deputy Director General of the National Health Development Research Center. “We are pleased to visit San Francisco, share our experiences, and learn from health systems here. We look forward to more cooperation in the future.”

In addition to identifying opportunities for health systems in both countries to move toward greener health development, meeting participants explored organizing a follow-on meeting in Beijing on green health care, as well as a health care component to the 2017 U.S. - China Climate Leaders Summit in Boston as a way to continue to advance the collaboration.

About Health Care Without Harm

With offices in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States, Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform the health sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it becomes ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice.

Established by Health Care Without Harm, the Health Care Climate Council is a leadership network of U.S. hospitals committed to strengthening the health sector’s response to climate change.

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About the China National Health Development Research Center

The China National Health Development Research Center is a national research institution, established in 1991 under the leadership of National Health and Family Planning Commission of China. It works as a national think-tank providing technical consultancy to health policy-makers. To further strengthen health policy research and better accommodate the needs of health development and reform. After decades of development, the National Health Development Research Center has become an institution of scale with over 100 researchers and research fellows.

Health Care Without Harm has been working with the National Health Development Research Center since late 2015. Since that time the National Health Development Research Center has joined Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network