BY SARA SHIPLEY HILES
The first rule of medicine is "do no harm." Yet the health care industry itself is a major source of pollution, accounting for about 8.5% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and a similar share of major air pollutants. If the American health care industry were a country, it would rank ahead of the entire United Kingdom in emissions — and the numbers keep rising.
Dr. Jodi Sherman, an anesthesiologist at Yale University and a leader in researching the environmental footprint of the health care sector, co-authored a study in 20162 finding pollution from health care causes as much death and disability as preventable medical errors, first documented in a landmark Institute of Medicine report two decades ago.3
Just as that report sparked a revolution in patient safety practices, attention is needed now to cut health care's pollution burden, said Sherman, who also serves as medical director of sustainability for Yale New Haven Health. "There's very little accountability as to how we use resources as providers. We've known for a very long time that our expenditures are out of control, but that information is not motivating behavior change," she said. Understanding that there is actual harm caused by the care provided, "that is new information; that is the game changer."
Read full article in Health Progress, Journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.