Columbia Valley Pioneer Staff

A new guide called Planetary Health for Primary Care outlines how clinicians can reduce their impacts on the environment in their day-to-day work.

A team of healthcare professionals led by family physician Dr. Ilona Hale is behind the guide that promotes climate advocacy. 

According to East Kootenay Division of Family Practice, the healthcare sector is one of the most polluting sectors, contributing five per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Hale said the new online resource is “meant to make the job of reducing our environmental impact in healthcare easier.” She noted the guide offers a new way to think about the problem and practical tips on incorporating solutions into everyday clinical practice.

Hale said there were previous guides to environmental action in healthcare, but they were more focused on recycling, reducing energy, and saving paper, which is “not where the true problem is. 

Planetary Health for Primary Care outlines different strategies that address bigger impacts, such as the upstream waste generated in the supply chain to produce materials required for medications, lab tests, surgeries, and hospitalizations. The guide also offers tangible actions such as reducing unnecessary care, empowering patients, and shifting to prevention.

Hale noted that environmental action in healthcare is becoming an increasingly important topic, and there is strong potential that sustainability will soon become embedded as a necessary component of value in the healthcare system.

“Low-carbon, high-quality care is a win-win-win. It improves patient care, reduces our environmental impact, reduces our workload, saves money in the system, and increases equity,” said Hale.