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Hippocratic oath to do no harm

Why sustainable healthcare?

Human health is inextricably linked to the health of the earth’s natural systems, which determine the air we breathe, the food we can grow, the spread of disease and much more.

Currently, natural systems are being disrupted on both a local and a global scale as a result of human activities. This complex set of relationships is sometimes referred to as ‘planetary health’ and is increasingly recognised as a critical perspective in health improvement and protection.

Our health systems consume enormous quantities of materials, energy, chemicals and water, and they produce vast amounts of waste, much of it toxic. In the European Union, the health system produces 5% of the EU’s CO2 emissions. In Australia it has been estimated at 7% and in the US it may be as high as 10%. A more efficient health system can make a significant contribution to the carbon reductions required by the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this introduction to the field of sustainable healthcare we will use case studies of good practice to understand how to clinical practice can be transformed.

By the end of the this module you will be able to identify examples of sustainable healthcare practice, and the skills required to implement them.

To start, watch this short video about the challenge of hospital-generated pollution, produced by Health Care Without Harm.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.


Reflect on your experiences in the health system, either as an employee or as a patient. What is the most polluting or materially wasteful practice you have experienced in a health setting? What do you think could have been done differently?

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This article is from the free online course:

Global Health, Conflict and Violence

University of Bergen