Healthcare and climate change

IASH-SSPS Research Fellow Dr Cristina S. Richie has written for today's Scotsman on the links between medicine and climate change.

People affected by climate change cause an influx in hospital admissions and require medical care. These treatments release more carbon, locking healthcare into a self-destructive cycle whereby medical care causes medical needs. For instance, air pollution is known to induce breathing difficulties. Inhalers are used to minimize the effects of air pollution, but inhaler use generates a significant amount of CO2, which exacerbates pollution. In response, the United Kingdom Climate Change Act of 2008 led to legally binding carbon reduction measures in healthcare. These are outlined in the NHS Scotland’s Climate Change Plan, with additional support from the Scottish Public Health Network and Scottish Managed Sustainable Health Network (SMASH), which addresses climate change health hazards.

As the climate plan is reevaluated for efficacy and progress, the NHS has moved from greening hospital buildings, reworking hospital menus to include less meat, and encouraging carbon neutral transportation—like walking and biking—to examining the carbon of medical practices like pharmaceutical prescriptions and the environmental impact of single-use plastics. These are important initiatives. Yet, minimizing the environmental impacts of healthcare is not only the responsibility of the NHS, but also the patients who it serves and the doctors who provide care.

You can read the full article here.