Few sectors of the economy consume as many resources – electricity, water, cleaning products, chemicals and food – as health care. As research linking environmental impact with chronic disease continues to emerge, it poses a unique challenge to health care systems like Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI).
As a way to improve care, boost efficiency and reduce costs, CHI has joined the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, a national group of influential health care systems that has issued a national “call to action for healthier communities.” CHI, the nation’s second-largest faith-based health system, is also urging other hospitals around the country to join in this movement toward environmental sustainability.
“To have a lasting impact for our patients and our communities, it’s vital that we focus on our environment and the underlying causes of disease whenever and wherever we can,” said Kevin Lofton, CHI’s president and CEO. “Simple changes – the elimination of mercury, for instance – can make a huge difference in the well-being of our patients and our staff. These important efforts also reduce overall costs, allowing CHI to provide more resources to care for our patients and sustain healthier communities, which is our mission as a health care ministry.”
Catholic Health Initiatives, as part of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, joined with Practice Greenhealth, Health Care Without Harm, the Center for Health Design and other major health systems today in Washington, D.C. to issue a simple call to action to other hospitals across the country.
“We are creating a movement in health care to support healthier and more resilient communities,” said Gary Cohen, founder and president of Health Care Without Harm. “By reducing exposure to harmful chemicals, promoting healthy foods and conserving energy, hospitals can not only reduce operational costs, they can improve the health of people in their communities before they ever enter a hospital.”
CHI has already adopted changes into day-to-day practices that have reduced waste and lowered costs, earning Practice Greenhealth awards in each of the past three years. CHI’s broad efforts include everything from comprehensive recycling programs to the reprocessing of single-use devices and environmentally preferable purchasing policies. Other programs focus on sustainability designs in new construction. Recently, one of CHI’s national headquarters buildings, in Englewood, Colo., received the prestigious Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star certification. It is the third CHI building to earn the Energy Star award.
The new Healthier Hospitals Initiative campaign urges the nation’s hospitals to accelerate adoption of the six HHI Challenges and commit to improving the health and safety of patients, staff and communities by using the Initiative’s newly published and free, step-by-step guides to pick and implement six key challenges:
- Engage in leadership on environmental health and sustainability
- Serve healthier foods
- Reduce energy use
- Reduce waste
- Use safer chemicals
- Purchase environmentally preferable products
During the next three years, the Initiative will gather data and metrics from participating hospitals to demonstrate the impact these strides are having on the health and safety of patients, workers and communities, as well as on reducing health care expenditures.
In addition to CHI, HHI’s sponsors are major health systems, including Bon Secours Health System, Advocate Health Care, Dignity Health, Hospital Corporation of America, Inova, Kaiser Permanent, MedStart Health, Partners HealthCare, Tenet health Systems and Vanguard Health Systems.
About Catholic Health Initiatives: Catholic Health Initiatives is a national nonprofit health organization with headquarters in Englewood, Colo. The faith-based system operates in 19 states and includes 76 hospitals; 40 long-term care, assisted- and residential-living facilities; two community health-services organizations; two accredited nursing colleges; and home health agencies. In fiscal year 2011, CHI provided more than $612 million in charity care and community benefit, including services for the poor, free clinics, education and research. With annual revenues of more than $10.5 billion, CHI is the nation's second-largest Catholic health care system.