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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Yale: Healthcare Industry Major Source of Harmful Emissions

Climate change presents an unprecedented public health emergency and the global healthcare sector is contributing to the worldwide crisis, argues Dr. Jodi Sherman, associate professor of anesthesiology at the Yale School of Medicine in a commentary published Aug. 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The healthcare industry is responsible for responding to many of the most dangerous effects of pollution and climate change, and yet it is a significant source of greenhouse gases and other deadly environmental emissions itself,” said Dr. Sherman, who is also an associate professor of epidemiology in environmental health sciences at the Yale School of Public Health. “We must act to reduce waste and prevent pollution — work that is crucial to protecting public health and improving patient safety, which is at the heart of everything we do. ”

Dr. Sherman and her coauthors — Dr. Andrea MacNeill, of the University of British Columbia and Dr. Cassandra Thiel of New York University — lay out a multi-faceted approach to incorporate environmental sustainability into value assessments in healthcare, which includes quality, safety, and costs. Their “green print” plan to improve sustainability would engage clinicians and hospital administrators, regulatory bodies, policymakers, and healthcare-related industries in minimizing the healthcare sector’s environmental impact.

The U.S. healthcare system contributes 10 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions and 9 percent of harmful non-greenhouse air pollutants. (Pollution was associate with an estimated 9 million premature deaths worldwide in 2015 or 16 percent of all deaths. The majority of harm was from air emissions.) Its rate of greenhouse gas emissions increased 30 percent between 2006 and 2016, Dr. Sherman said.

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