HOSPITALS are institutions dedicated to treating diseases and improving health, but are major contributors to health problems caused by the environment, which causes the deaths of 12 million people a year, the head of international environmental health organization Health Care Without Harm Asia (HCWH) told The Manila Times.
In addition to being vulnerable to climate-related threats such as storms, “hospitals have their own negative impact on the environment through the energy they use, the products they consume, and the waste they create,” environmental health expert Josh Karliner said.
Karliner’s organization aims to address the environmental issues through its Low Carbon Health Care Project, he explained.
Karliner said that “studies have shown that environmental issues such as pollution cause 23 percent of deaths worldwide, with air pollution as the main contributor, accounting for almost seven million of the 12 million deaths recorded yearly.”
Karliner pinned the blame for this on man-made climate change, calling it “the greatest threat in health in the 21st century,” due to the burning of fossil fuels that cause air pollution.
“HCWH’s Low Carbon Health Care Project addresses the problem in three ways by helping to improve energy usage, building preparedness for climate change, and creating communication leaders,” Karliner said.
Instead of relying on fossil fuels–oil, gas, and coal–for energy, health care facilities should transform to green hospitals by using solar panels, biomass energy, and wind turbines for energy, he said.
Reports from member countries of the project showed that it is cost competitive in the long run, reducing carbon footprint, improving energy efficiency, and reducing health costs, he stressed.
Karliner also encouraged hospitals to be designed with climate change in mind.
This means that health care facilities must be resilient enough to be the last structures standing after disasters, not only to provide health care, but to serve as shelter for devastated families.
Finally, he urged health professionals to support the project and share information about it, as they are the most respected voices in their field.
Karliner will be in the country for three days for the 4th Asia Pacific Regional Forum to discuss the intersections of health and environment with high officials from World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations, and ministers from 50 countries.