By MARIE DUNN
More than 20 years ago, the IOM report To Err is Human moved the profession around the perception that our healthcare system is killing 98,000 people a year from medical malpractice. I am part of a generation of professionals who have learned to adopt system thinking; To measure, monitor, and improve; And ultimately to improve the quality of care.
Today, we are facing various challenges. Healthcare is in the midst of a global epidemic, in terms of systemic racism, not to mention a big resignation. However, we are facing a climate crisis. Are these things connected? Is there anything we can all do? The answer is of course yes, and I write to advocate for climate change to be included in the list of strategic and ethical imperatives for healthcare leaders everywhere.
Why is that
- Even today, the contribution of the healthcare industry to emissions on climate change is killing people. In 2018, greenhouse gas emissions from the healthcare industry were the only result 388,000 disability adjusted life year loss.
- The effects of climate change on health are linked to issues of systemic racism. For example, Communities that were on the red line (Racist housing policy that led to systematic low investment) experiences higher temperatures than communities that were not, and higher temperatures kill.
- Climate change Makes the situation more favorable for the spread of some infectious diseases Diseases, including epidemics, but also diseases caused by Lyme and water which have significant effects on health.
As the world changes, it is time for healthcare leaders to develop a new set of strategic priorities to address the need for healthcare systems for preparedness and flexibility in this scenario.
So with that in mind, what can you do to influence change?
First, get up to speed at the crossroads of health and weather. Information is out there, so dedicate some time to consuming it. Health care without harm Focusing on this topic is the leading non-profit in the US, to draw from many excellent sources. I have learned a lot from publications like The Lancet Countdown to Climate Change and Health Issues and books Environmental medicine And All we can do is save.
Reading is important, but don’t let it be your only job. Here are some steps to take.
See how climate correlates between your organization’s strategic planning and embedded measures that link your organization’s success to work on climate change. There are two primary ways that your organization can demonstrate its efforts to combat climate change.
One set of actions is to reduce emissions. This may seem like an effort to switch to renewable energy, review your organization’s investment portfolio, and most importantly, reduce emissions from the supply chain, in healthcare.
Other functions are related to optimization. In short, climate change is already happening, it’s about creating a set of strategies that will help your community – however, you define that community (local, regional, national) – to more effectively respond to the effects of climate change that exist today. Is and It will get worse in the future.
It is almost impossible to sustain progress on any initiative without a measure of progress, so it is important to include climate-related measures in your organization’s strategic plan. On the mitigation front, it looks like an attempt to become a net-zero entity (Kaiser In the US NHS Leaders on this journey). On the optimization front, your organization selects some measures from the recent Lancet Climate Change and Health Report that are relevant to your community and tracks efforts and progress.
Help people connect between climate and existing strategic projects and skills.
Often, climate change feels far-fetched and is not related to the problems at hand. Also in moments of big problems, there may be fears that we may not be able to move away from something as big as the Covid-19 reaction. I’m not advocating that we move away from these near-term imperatives, but I do believe that we need to add climate-conscious lenses. By doing the hard work we are already doing, with climate lenses, create links to show that we can make more impact. For example:
- Are you talking about social determinants of health? Connect these conversations with climate-Climate change is a social determinant of health.
- Are you trying to improve your supply chain? When many organizations consider the effectiveness of their supply chain due to epidemics, this is the moment to add stability lenses. As the world becomes more aware of emissions, so will health care. Healthcare organizations use a great deal of purchasing power that can be used to a positive end here. It’s easy to think that sustainability can always be expensive. But there is a lot of waste in health care, so mitigation efforts not only reduce emissions but also reduce costs.
- Are you talking about price based payments? There is information readily available on hot waves and air quality, and these environmental conditions have a real impact on human health. Review Assessing the regional impact of climate change on CDC health. Is there a way to systematically add some indicators to your care management program with a set of interventions related to heat, air quality, or other relevant factors, so that you can better adapt your communities?
Find your community.
I don’t consider myself a climate change expert, and I’m guessing you aren’t.
But as healthcare professionals, we have a lot to bring to the table in conversations about climate, just as we have a lot to learn from people working in other domains. What I do know is that no single person can solve this challenge, and it is important to find that community.
Here are some ideas:
- Include your supply chain and finance teams. Often behind the scenes, these teams will play a key role in helping your organization move forward.
- Take advantage of existing infrastructure. CDC has invested in climate and health potential in many states through itself BRACE program. See what might exist in your community to draw and build.
- Keep in touch with your partners in public health or healthcare delivery. Healthcare delivery systems and public health have complimentary roles to play. Breeding resources and initiatives will help communities move closer together.
- Seed fund to community based organizations. As in many health care efforts, community-based organizations play an important role. These are probably not new relationships, but there are already relationships through other initiatives. Community-based organizations operate on a small budget, depending on their nature. Think of ways in which resources can flow to these organizations to secure them as partners and to align their efforts in contacting them around topics such as VBP, climate, and other efforts. Find ways to reach out to the communities they serve.
- Build on your community data sources (HIE, etc.). Many community-based data programs are in the process of rethinking their future. Could these organizations be community resources to provide data sets or services that no one other organization can provide on issues such as climate change?
Lead with a small test of change.
Faced with the Institute of Medicine’s astonishing assessment of the error in medicine, we led the way in reliability, small trials of change, and the thinking of systems. The issue is gaining momentum with organizations such as the National Academy and HHS Stating his intent to take action. However, market forces are not yet on the agenda of every healthcare organization. Your voice, faith, and actions are important here. Chances are there are some small ones that can help you influence change and build momentum in your organization. A small test of change makes a big difference.
Marie Dunn, MS, is a public health professional and longtime health executive working at the intersection of Analysis, Population Health, and Climate.