When we talk about sustainability in health we are usually talking about spending and workforce. But what of the physical environment? In this edition of Australian Medicine, Dr Tessa Kennedy, Chair, AMA Council of Doctors in Training, talks about climate change and environmental degradation as one of the most significant threats to human health in our time and acknowledges our part in addressing it in how we work.
Existing AMA policy acknowledges that: “Human health is ultimately dependent on the health of the planet and its ecosystem. Climate policies can have public health benefits beyond their intended impact on the climate. These health benefits should be promoted as a public health opportunity, with significant potential to offset some costs associated with addressing climate change.”
Yet the health sector itself contributes around seven per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Our own resource rich settings create an enormous amount of plastic and other waste which take a direct toll on patient health and our environment. The way we run our hospitals is also increasingly unsustainable from an environmental perspective.
Health facilities and workers should promote a holistic approach to health, including its social and environmental determinants. We are increasingly acknowledging this: hospitals are non-smoking areas, because tobacco is a significant risk to health. There have been efforts to improve food options and exclude sugar sweetened beverages from hospital canteens because obesity is a significant risk to health.
Read her full article in Australian Medicine