Clean Med, Clean Climate: Linking Climate, Health, and a Better Future

061114_CleanMed2014_OrigLast week, nearly 1,000 senior administrators, clinicians, nurses, emergency response teams, operations managers, researchers, architects, engineers, epidemiologists, and city and state administrators representing the broad landscape of sustainable health care came together in Cleveland for the 2014 Clean Med Conference sponsored by Health Care Without Harm – an organization whose President, Gary Cohen, serves as part of the MomentUs Leadership Circle.  Now in its 11th year, the largest Clean Med event yet showcased the efforts of a diverse mix of pioneering health leaders who are dramatically expanding the scope of the “do no harm” oath by bringing new thinking, cross-sector collaboration and technological innovation to the challenge of reducing health care’s environmental footprint to improve patient and community health.
The Clean Med national gathering notably took place the same week that the White House made the strategic move to elevate the health and climate framework by announcing the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon emission regulations within a hospital setting and through the stories of families with children suffering from asthma. The leading message was that the same EPA ruling meant to help advance climate solutions and improve the health of our planet can also benefit the health of our families, and prevent more children from suffering the effects of diseases, such as asthma, that are projected to worsen in a warming world.
In synch with the Administration’s effort to highlight how stronger carbon regulations can yield better health outcomes, this year’s Clean Med conference featured an entire strand of workshops, as well as a pre-conference symposium, focused on tools, resources and best practices designed to help the health care sector to lead by example in adopting more energy efficient practices, and to move swiftly to make the delivery of health care services more resilient in the face of a changing climate and more extreme weather events.
The timing has never been better, nor more crucial, for health professionals to join together to share knowledge and gain inspiration from peers and industry leaders who are already changing their practices and raising their voices to speak out on how climate solutions are a win-win for a healthier environment and healthier patients. In the words of Gary Cohen speaking to the power of driving climate solutions by connecting them to health, “When we finally decided to kick our addiction to tobacco as a society, the Surgeon General issued a health warning; we got doctors and nurses to stop smoking and talk to their patients about its hazards; we banned tobacco from health care institutions. We are in a similar but more urgent situation now regarding climate change. Health care needs to play a catalytic role in kicking our addiction to fossil fuels and putting us all on a path toward a healthier future.”
To learn more about how the health care industry can build resiliency to climate impacts, check out the American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica‘s new report: Beyond Storms & Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change.

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