The Landscape of Health, Green, and Everything in Between

Apr 21, 2009, 11:34 AM, Posted by Elizabeth Dickson

Last May we introduced grantee Health Care Without Harm in a feature on Gary Cohen, Director of HCWH, as part of our “Conversations with Pioneer” series. You can also check out this new short video highlighting Health Care Without Harm and its mission to build the evidence for green interventions in the health care system.

The video also illustrates what is truly pioneering about Health Care Without Harm: their vision for sustainable improvements that also result in direct benefits to patient health and safety. For example, substituting hospital disinfectants for “greener cleaners” can arguably improve the long-term health of the population through indirect environmental effects. But these environmental advantages accrue incrementally over long stretches of time. 

Health Care Without Harm sees the momentum behind the Green Movement as the catalyst for direct and immediate improvements for patients and nurses. In the case of greener cleaners, this could mean reduced rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses for patients, nurses, and hospital staff.

The Pioneer Team has a keen interest in this concept of the “triple win” – for the planet, long-term population health, and direct benefits to patient health. We recently conducted a field-mapping exercise to explore the intersection between Green and Health. Our purpose was to uncover similarly innovative and effective projects, and to examine the contours of the intersection itself. This discussion raised some interesting questions. Each team member had their own take, and now we would like to hear from you:

  1. Is the union of green and health just a fad? The Green Movement has expanded into many new fields in recent years. Is its foray into health and health care substantial, authentic, and pioneering, or is it just an outgrowth of a short-lived trend?

  2. Creating real-time benefits for patients through green initiatives is a key component of the “triple-win”. What ideas or opportunities for improving patient outcomes are out there for pioneers working in this space?

  3. Broadly speaking, what does the common path of Green and Health look like for the foreseeable future?

We look forward to receiving and reading your comments.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.