Health Care Without Harm

Can the green movement improve patient health and safety at the point of care?

The health care sector has an enormous environmental footprint, generating more than two million tons of waste each year–much of it toxic–and nearly 10 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. Current health care practices harm the environment and can contribute to poor health for patients and health care workers.

Health Care Without Harm, a coalition of more than 450 organizations in 50 countries, advocates for eco-friendly changes to design, purchasing, and operational practices that can dramatically improve health. Innovations that emerge when health care and the green movement intersect can have a transformative impact: ventilation systems are redesigned to reduce both energy use and hospital acquired infection rates; group purchasing power is used to push suppliers to offer green products that also improve patient and worker health and safety; a switch to “greener cleaners” results in reduced asthma and other respiratory conditions for workers. In one early success, the group found that a switch from PVC to synthetic rubber and other flooring not only eliminates off-gassing of toxic materials, but requires less toxic cleaning and maintenance and provides cushioning that can reduce worker fatigue and noise levels.

This grant supports the creation of best practices, research into practical applications, and the identification of necessary policy or code changes. "Of all the sectors of society who should understand this growing science, it should be the health care sector; they’re in the healing business,” said Gary Cohen, the project’s director. “They have a responsibility to clean up their own house.”

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Health Care Without Harm

Gary Cohen
Project Director

It is critical for us to link patient safety and worker safety with environmental sustainability"
- Gary Cohen, project director, Health Care Without Harm

Substituting hospital disinfectants for 'greener cleaners' can arguably improve the long-term health of the population through indirect environmental effects"
- Elizabeth Dickson

Health Care Without Harm

Health Care Without Harm, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a coalition of more than 450 organizations in 50 countries, advocates for eco-friendly changes to design, purchasing, and operational practices that can dramatically improve health. A key goal of the collaborative is to evaluate the impact of green initiatives on patient and worker health.

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Published Research and Blog Posts

Health Care Without Harm's Research Collaborative

Health Care Without Harm's Research Collaborative

This report summary provides a synopsis of Health Care Without Harm's work and highlights why RWJF believes it has the potential to dramatically improve the health of patients and health care workers.

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Health Care Without Harm

Health Care Without Harm

Health Care Without Harm is an international coalition working to transform the health care sector so that it is ecologically sustainable and reduces harm to public health and the environment. Watch a video detailing efforts to reduce the impact of hospitals on the environment.

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The Landscape of Health, Green, and Everything in Between

The Landscape of Health, Green, and Everything in Between

On the Pioneering Ideas blog, Elizabeth Dickson details what she thinks is pioneering about Health Care Without Harm, including a “triple win” for the planet. Dickson wants to hear your thoughts, and asks three pointed questions.

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Conversations with Pioneers: Gary Cohen of Health Care Without Harm

Conversations with Pioneers: Gary Cohen of Health Care Without Harm

Learn about the Health Care Without Harm's mission and early successes from a Pioneering Ideas interview with Executive Director Gary Cohen.

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Read what people are saying about health care without harm...

...On GreenBiz.com: "How going green saves Kaiser $26 million annually"

...In Healthcare Finance News: "Health care leaders discuss greening the supply chain, lowering costs"

...On CNN'S The Chart blog: "Anti-PVC push in health care grows"

...In Modern Healthcare: "Give health care the green light"

Health Care Without Harm on Pioneering Ideas

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