The air we breathe, the water we consume, the weather condition stability we live in, all these factors have an impact on a person’s health condition. But the realization on a global healthcare platform has happened only recently where climate change was addressed as a public health issue. This had happened at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of 2021 along with the involvement of the World Health Organization. The climate experts have been stating and warning for a long time about the threat that is aimed at public health. At the same climate change conference which is also termed COP26 was a reputed environmental advocacy group present named ‘Healthcare Without Harm’.
The group had sponsored a vital health program in association with the United Nations and more than fifty countries. The ‘Healthcare Without Harm’ organization has also advocated for the US government for establishing ‘Office of Climate change and Health equity’ which would dedicatedly work on analyzing the impact of climate change on health care. The president of the organization named Gary Cohen had stated that the organization was established in 1996 to provide information to the healthcare industry on its responsibility in the climate-changing environment and take the necessary steps in improving the situation.
Gary Cohen also stated that there has been a trend of ignorance in the healthcare sector which needs to be addressed and maneuvered into a more practical perspective. The organization has raised the hard-hitting statement that it is not possible to have healthy humans on earth if the planet itself is sick and the drastic climate changes are nothing but symptoms that should be noticed and necessary steps should be taken upon.
Further healthcare issues raised by the Healthcare Without Harm organization
The director of sustainability from the University of California has raised the tragic perspective that the healthcare industry is in a constant research process to develop more effective medicines for pulmonary cancer but at the same time depleting extensive fossil fuels to run the research facility. The basic change remains in making every human cautious about climate changes and focusing on the individual lifestyle that would bring less harm to the environment. The organization of ‘HealthCare Without Harm’ has been successful in building a coalition of about twenty-four health systems which in total represent six hundred hospitals to innovate climate solutions in the healthcare sector through the forum of the Healthcare Climate Council.
This council earnestly requests hospitals to join the Healthcare Climate Challenge which focuses on carbon footprint checks, choosing renewable resources more often like solar energy and advocating new policies aiming to cause less damage to the environment. Gary Cohen from ‘Healthcare Without Harm’ also stated that at present the health organizations are not aware of the benefits that come along with functioning daily with goals of environmental sustainability and development. Gary Cohen also made the truthful statement that there remains a great absence of coordinated thinking in the healthcare sector.
The impact of the reduction in the use of fossil fuels is one of the most simple approaches that everyone should take as it not only improves the environment and the climate conditions but also improves the population health status and long term safety. It has also been directed by experts that there remains a lack of technological infrastructure in various sectors that would be developing and providing alternatives to the harmful choices of environmental damage that humans are choosing every single day.
Climate change and the threat it poses on population health
The undeniable climate changes which are occurring throughout the planet are not happening through a natural process and humans are immensely responsible for bringing upon these changes. The tragedy remains in the fact that indirectly humans are to be held accountable for the health threats which are impacting the planet. The average rise of temperature throughout the planet is alarming and according to climate experts, the average temperature rise must be limited to 1.5 degrees celsius. The global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees celsius is also not a properly stable change but the position the climate has already reached limiting it to 1.5 would be a great achievement and the impact on people’s health could be also restricted to a certain limit.
The analysis from climate experts does reveal that the communities and people who are dealing with the health impacts at a major level are the communities who have the least contribute towards the causes of climate change. The people who have a low-income life do rely more on natural resources and carry a much less carbon footprint than a high-income person living a luxurious life with every modern technological facility that harms the climate condition. If the overall population health gets severely impacted by climate changes and it keeps deteriorating then it won’t be wrong to say that decades of progress in global healthcare might come to no use.
The health inequalities in a population would change a lot and might also impact poverty by widening it in the overall population. When looking at the present health scenario of the populations the average data is not all promising and even shows how people are having to spend huge chunks of their income in maintaining their health and battling the diseases. A huge part of the population does get diagnosed with chronic diseases that require treatment and medication until the very last phase of their lives.
The insurance plans are also much costly due to which the fragment of the population with low income is not able to afford it. Climate change impacts are already found and visible in the health of people and if more awareness and wisdom doesn’t get inflicted yet then the future seems very gloomy for the global healthcare scenario. When looking at the natural events over the globe in recent years it can be noticed that the disasters like storms, floods, heatwaves all have increased in numbers which caused the destruction of property, changes in the natural habitat and even loss of lives.
The recorded data also suggests that after these events the unhygienic diseases and vector-borne diseases got increased a lot and had also depleted the natural resources making many people starve for food and water for many days. These critical situations are bound to impact the population health which the healthcare systems might not be able to prevent or attend to in time.
Making sustainable progress through healthcare in climate change
Looking at the present global healthcare system it’s safe to say that it’s better late than never. There has been progress in dealing with climate change impacts on healthcare and the necessary mediums of resources and energy are partly getting shifted towards the natural and renewable ones. Climate change experts have witnessed the weather and climate graphs during the pandemic and especially the cities had shown noticeable improvements. During the lockdown phase, nearly all vehicles were not being used except the essential service ones and this led to a drastic reduction in the daily release of harmful gasses into the environment which has an impact on the air quality.
Several factories and business organizations were closed that stopped the use of a huge number of equipment that released severe gases like CFCs causing deterioration in the natural resources of the region. During the pandemic, healthcare facilities were under immense stress that caused exhaustion and depletion of their medical resources. To keep them on the climate change improvement paths they need to receive proper support of funding, crucial training and lots of assistance from advanced healthcare technologies. Gary Cohen from the ‘Healthcare Without Harm’ organization has started to focus on the secondary hospitals that work as a safety net in serving patients dealing with diseases and health problems coming from climate change.
The government support becomes a huge deal when working on such a big section like the impact of climate change on healthcare. The US government does seem supportive enough with funding for research and necessary developments required in shaping healthcare into a more climate cautious perspective. Bringing improvements in energy use and controlling waste are the basic implementations that the health organizations of the United States are working on.
The Health Care Climate Council of the US has been trying to bring changes in the supply chain of the healthcare system by forming strict guidelines and rules which the supplying companies need to abide by. These rules are focused on making the healthcare system run on cleaner energy and environmentally friendly equipment. The companies of the healthcare supply chain are being advised to focus on achieving carbon neutrality and shifting towards renewable energy options. The carbon reduction on the equipment and their production is also a major milestone that the suppliers should be achieving.
Waste management in the healthcare sector
It is more than important for healthcare organizations to slowly shift away from the medical objects and drugs which have a huge impact on the environment. Anaesthetics like the Desflurane have been reduced in use and the tactical move of putting it in the storeroom instead of the operating room helped the clinicians to choose other alternatives which eventually made the Desflurane get removed from the medical stockrooms as well. Various changes are also being brought upon the particular use of medical gowns and the ones like the disposable hospital gowns are being made inaccessible.
Sometimes cutting off the supply chain can be the only option of eradicating the use of certain products. Reprocessing of many single-use medical tools can lead to saving millions of dollars and reduction of medical waste which causes harm to the environment. Costly items like surgical tools and harmonic scalpels have been repurposed which saves huge budgets of the hospitals in buying new ones in very short periodic spans. There has been noticeable progress in the US for changing the role of healthcare in climate change but it needs to happen on a global scale to save the planet from getting further sick.