How one healthcare system is addressing climate change, healthy families, equity and social justice through normal operations
By Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski
As we grapple with the tremendous healing that is needed both of our loved ones and of our society and planet, many of us in the healthcare field are also thinking long-term: what will healthcare take away from the pandemic? How will we more urgently fuel the humankindness that our faith demands of us in hospitals, and in our communities? How will we all come to see the divine connections between our health and God’s creation more clearly, more deeply.
My health care system, CommonSpirit Health, was founded decades ago by women religious—Sisters who had a rich legacy of serving people in need, especially those who were poor and vulnerable. In my role I focus on sustainability initiatives and business practices that promote care for Earth and use of sustainable resources—cutting greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy, decreasing energy use, landfill waste and toxic chemicals and promoting healthier foods. Creating a healthier planet improves human health. But just as importantly, we focus specifically on the needs of the most vulnerable as part of normal operations.
We do this because we believe health care is in a unique position to be a force for healing and regeneration — not only to those who come to us for care — but to those in the communities we serve and all who are part of the fragile ecosystem of our common home. We need bold, intertwined solutions to address the climate crisis, and all of our biggest challenges. We acknowledge the urgency of the situation we are facing and have been engaging with other partners who are also dealing with these complexities.
Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski is a Dominican Sister and VP of Environmental Sustainability at CommonSpirit Health, a faith-based, nonprofit health system serving 21 states, 142 hospitals and hundreds of communities across the U.S.