Climate Change and EM 07: Sustainability in Healthcare

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Course Credit: 6 hours

The U.S. healthcare sector emits 8.5% of the country’s total emissions. Hospitals are a substantial part of this. Not only are we tasked with responding to the many health impacts of climate change, but we are also contributing to the problem. Each one of our hospitals and organizations has an immense opportunity and responsibility to reach carbon neutrality. Kaiser Permanente and Gundersen Health System have already acted. In this module, we will explore the environmental impact of healthcare and dive into what solutions are already being implemented.

Curriculum: Module 7 of 10

TopicReading Material
Introduction BMJ: A pathway to net zero emissions for healthcare
A call for clinical actionBMJ: Net zero healthcare: a call for clinician action
OrganizationsHealth Care Without Harm is one of the main global organizations dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of healthcare.

Practice Greenhealth is membership organization that provides information, tools, data, resources, and expert technical support on sustainability initiatives that help hospitals meet sustainability goals.
Understanding healthcare’s carbon footprintHealth Care Without Harm: How the health sector contributes to the global climate crisis and opportunities for action (focus on section 3)

Environmental impacts of the U.S. healthcare system and how it affects public healthPLOS One: Environmental impacts of the U.S. health care system and effects on public health

Health Affairs: Health care pollution And public health damage in the United States: An update
Decarbonizing the U.S. health sectorNEJM: Decarbonizing the U.S. health sector — A call to action

National Academy of Medicine Action: Action collaborative on decarbonizing the U.S. health sector
National experts speak on the approach to healthcare sustainability in the U.S.CleanMed: Clinical sustainability: Environmental stewardship at the bedside [slidedeck]
Emergency departmentsAnnals of Emergency Medicine: The climate-smart emergency department: A primer

Western Journal of Emergency Medicine: Dumpster diving in the emergency department: Quantity and characteristics of waste at a level I trauma center
Reusable versus single-use disposable laryngoscopesAnesthesia and Analgesia: Life cycle assessment and costing methods for device procurement: Comparing reusable and single-use disposable laryngoscopes
Green teams in healthcarePractice Greenhealth: A guide for creating effective green teams in health care
Waste generation and hospital emissions of a hospital kitchenPLOS One: Waste generation and carbon emissions of a hospital kitchen in the US: Potential for waste diversion and carbon reductions
Making sustainable procurement decisions in a global landscapeHealth Care Without Harm: Sustainable health in procurement project
Road map for health care decarbonizationHealth Care Without Harm: Global road map for health care decarbonization: A navigational tool for achieving zero emissions with climate resilience and health equity

Optional Reading

Reading Material
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Reducing healthcare carbon emissions: A primer on measures and actions for healthcare organizations to mitigate climate change

AMA Journal of Ethics: Health care waste

Resources, Conservation, and Recycling: The green print: Advancement of environmental sustainability in healthcare

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator – Convert emissions or energy data into concrete terms you can understand — such as the annual CO2 emissions of cars, households, and power plants.

Climate Change and EM Team

  • Lead Author: Caitlin Rublee, MD, MPH
  • Secondary Authors: Catharina Giudice, MD; Katelyn Moretti, MD, MS; Kyle Martin, DO, MA, MPH; Andrew Musits, MD, MS
  • Contributors: Joseph Leanza, MD; Christine Baek; Nikhil Ranadive, MD, MS
  • ALiEMU Graphic Designer: Christopher Nash, MD
  • ALiEMU Peer Reviewer: Michelle Lin, MD
  • Sponsor: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Curriculum design consultant: Simiao Li-Sauerwine, MD, MSCR with the ALiEM Education Research Lab and Incubator (ERLI)

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