Sustainable healthcare expert calls for the health sector to address its role in healing the planet
Monday, 21 May
Last week, Dr David Pencheon OBE, a sustainable healthcare expert and doctor visiting from the UK, met with medical students to discuss healthcare sustainability at the AMSA Code Green Forum: Future Leaders in Sustainable Healthcare.
Organised by Australian Medical Students' Association (AMSA) Code Green, an AMSA Global Health Project focusing on climate change and health, the event provided student leaders from various medical organisations the opportunity to interact with one of the world's leaders in environmentally sustainable healthcare.
Dr Pencheon is the founder and director of the Sustainable Development Unit in the UK's National Health Service (NHS), which successfully cut down its carbon emissions by 11% between 2007 and 2015.
"We organised this event because, as young doctors, we know that in the future we will be the ones who will have to deal with the health and social impacts of climate change," Ms Georgia Behrens, one of the AMSA Code Green Project Coordinators, said. "We want to work in sustainable hospitals when we are doctors, and right now, we have the opportunity to start working towards that."
The invitation to the event was extended to medical student organisations such as AMSA, the NSW Medical Students' Council (NSWMSC), the student division for the Doctors for Environment Australia (DEA), and the Medical Student Societies and Global Health Groups of NSW medical schools.
"Climate change can be an issue that people disengage with when they feel it is too large an issue to tackle. Hearing about the tangible changes that have been made in other health systems to reduce the impact on the environment, and breaking it down into the small steps we can advocate for in our local hospitals was grounding and empowering,” said AMSA President, Ms Alex Farrell.
The discussion focused around sustainable healthcare delivery and how students can advocate to improve our systems, such as through reducing waste and integrating Environment Sustainability Officers into hospital networks.
These measures reduce carbon emissions, help tackle the growing burden of chronic disease and reduce operating costs. For example, pilot studies in the UK have shown that adopting sustainable practices for patients on dialysis saves the NHS £1 billion.
“Young people want to drive this change in our future workplaces, and Dr Pencheon helped show us that it is possible,” said Ms Farrell.
Ms Behrens added, "It’s always great when leaders support the younger generation. Yes, it’s going to be our problem in the future but that shouldn’t stop us all from working together towards an appropriate solution right now."
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Published: 21 May 2018