Protecting patients and the planet from unnecessary tests

Research into the triple bottom line of sustainable health care uncovers new ways to reduce costs to people, health care and the environment.

Climate change is a universal problem that impacts both environmental and human health. In response, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute researcher Dr. Andrea MacNeill and Dr. Karina Spoyalo are looking at how sustainable health care can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the harms associated with climate change.

“One of the biggest takeaways in the emerging field of sustainable health care is that what is good for the environment is good for patients,” states Spoyalo. “The sum of the parts becomes greater in the end.”

“Globally, health care contributes 5.2 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. In Canada, pollution from the health care industry accounts for 23,000 disability-adjusted life-years lost annually.”

In her 2021 research paper, MacNeill defines a framework for constructing the emerging field of environmentally sustainable health systems. She describes it as reducing the demand for health services through preventive measures; avoiding unnecessary investigations and treatments; and decarbonizing processes of care.

“The health sector is uniquely positioned to lead global climate action,” states MacNeill. “Rethinking health care through a holistic lens of sustainability will help realise the Canadian federal government’s goals of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and developing low-carbon, sustainable and resilient health systems.”

Continue reading the VHCRI article here.