Many hospitals and health systems around the world are taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint, contribute to public health and save money -- all at the same time.
Today, roughly a quarter of all human disease and death in the world can be attributed to what the World Health Organization (WHO) broadly defines as environmental factors. These include unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and hygiene, indoor and outdoor air pollution, workplace hazards, industrial accidents, automobile accidents, climate change, poor land use practices and poor natural resource management.
For children, the rate of environmentally caused deaths is as high as 36 percent. Environmental health factors play a significantly larger role in developing countries, where water and sanitation, along with indoor and outdoor air pollution, are a major cause of mortality.
Climate change is expected to worsen the problem, bringing shifting patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climate events, heat related illness and population migration. The magnitude of these multiple looming crises led The Lancet to declare in 2009 that “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,” and will “put the lives and well-being of billions of people at increased risk.”
The health sector’s mandate is to prevent and cure disease. Yet the delivery of health care services -- most notably in hospitals – often inadvertently contributes to the environmental health problem. Hospitals generate significant environmental impacts both upstream and downstream from service delivery, the natural resources and products they consume, and the waste they generate.
Hospitals and health systems everywhere have the potential not only to adapt to the scourges of climate change, but also, in the process, to promote sustainability, greater health equity and environmental health through investing in healthier buildings, purchasing green, and implementing sustainable operations.
Our global work
- Global Green and Healthy Hospitals
- Mercury in Health Care
- Climate and Health
- Health Care Waste Management
- Safer Chemicals