NEJM Issues Report on Decarbonizing U.S. Healthcare Sector, Saving Money and Lives

Dec. 9, 2021
The industry generates 8 percent of all carbon emissions nationally and 25 percent of all healthcare industry emissions globally

The American healthcare industry is under pressure in ways that may be unprecedented. In addition to decades long criticism over the relatively high costs of U.S. healthcare, hospitals and professionals are being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 virus. Nurses are getting burned out and leaving the profession.

A new report says the system also causes another kind of burnout. A perspective published on the New England Journal of Medicine website indicates the U.S. healthcare sector needs to do more in reducing its vast and relatively pollutive carbon footprint.

The piece, titled "Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector: A Call to Action," features authors from the National Academy of Medicine, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Cardinal Health, UnitedHealth Group, and others. It notes that the healthcare sector accounts for 8 percent of carbon emissions nationally, whether that's from energy used to heat and cool hospitals or power its supply chain for goods and services. Those emissions are the highest in the industrialized world and are 25 percent of all global healthcare emissions.

A World Health Organization report indicates that climate change impacts cause more than $4 billion in health damages annually.

"Ameliorating the sector’s environmental effects and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions could not only improve health for everyone, but also reduce costs of care," reads the NEJM perspective. "Progress in four areas will be essential for decarbonizing and responding to climate change: the healthcare supply chain, healthcare delivery, health professional education, and policy, financing, and metrics."

On a related note, our sister publication EnergyTech will host a Dec. 14 webinar looking at energy efficiency and sustainability actions taken by the Penn State Health Hershey Medical Center as well as several universities. Registration is free for the one-hour panel that will start at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The panel will feature speakers from Penn State Health, Chatham University and the U.S. Green Business Certification Inc.

Click here to learn more about and to register for the EnergyTech webinar.

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