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Reducing Healthcare's Environmental Impact: A Role for Medicine and Beyond

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Mason Walker
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Reducing Healthcare's Environmental Impact: A Role for Medicine and Beyond

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Modern Medicine’s Impact on the Environment

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The modern medicine industry plays a significant role in environment degradation, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and generating unrecyclable waste. With increased awareness of climate change, efforts to reduce this impact are gaining momentum globally, with the medical field championing various initiatives.

Leading the Charge

Rutgers Health and Rutgers University are at the forefront of these efforts. Bishr Omary, the co-lead organizer of a series of commentaries about reducing gastroenterology's environmental impact, is making these resources freely available online. These commentaries provide actionable efforts based on sustainability principles, emphasizing the role of health care providers in caring for the planet.

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Addressing High Contributors

Gastroenterology is identified as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and waste production due to its procedure-intensive nature. Efforts to mitigate this include working with major buyers and users to focus on the three Rs of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

The Role of the Health Care Industry

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Various organizations, including pharmaceutical companies and medical societies, are playing a crucial role in climate action. Many are forming climate change and sustainability committees, taking pledges to measure and reduce their carbon footprints, and making resources available for health organizations and practitioners to make environmentally conscious decisions.

National Health Service's Pledge for Carbon Neutrality

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) has set a challenging goal of achieving nationwide carbon neutrality by 2050. The NHS has already begun implementing system-wide steps to reduce emissions and waste, setting an example for the global healthcare community.

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The US Health Sector Climate Pledge

In the US, over 130 organizations, representing over 15% of hospitals, have joined the White House Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Sector Climate Pledge. Pledge signers commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050, with assistance and support provided by the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity.

Efforts by Rutgers University

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Rutgers University has a plan to be carbon neutral by 2040, setting a strong example for other educational institutions. They have also established the Climate and Energy Institute to expand on existing sustainability efforts and are focusing on research related to vulnerable populations, food security, and environmental pollutants.

Conclusion

Addressing climate change is a health equity imperative that requires collective efforts from all sectors, including healthcare. By incorporating environmental sustainability into strategic planning, partnering with various stakeholders, and focusing on quality and safety, the healthcare sector can make significant strides in reducing its environmental impact.

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