Role of the health sector in reducing the burden of air pollution

The COVID-19 pandemic has been referred to as a ‘once in a century’ shock, but “looming crises, such as climate change and environmental degradation, are likely to increase the probability of repeated public health shocks”(1).  

One of the examples provided in the Health at a Glance: Europe 2020 report is that of air pollution, the adverse effects of chronic exposure to fine particulate matter on the health and welfare of European citizens, and the link between air pollution and COVID-19. Although air quality has improved in most European countries in the past years, EU member states have set ambitious goals to continue to reduce air pollution by 2030, including the proposal to adopt an action plan “Towards a Zero Pollution Ambition for air, water and soil – building a Healthier Planet for Healthier People” in 2021. 

The involvement of the health sector has been limited in the activities to reduce air pollutions, but health managers can directly contribute by reducing the ecological footprint of the health sector. Some examples of measures to be adopted by health systems and organisations are: decreasing the energy consumption; improving their supply chain and adopting environmental-friendly procurement processes; reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and other dirty energy sources; implementing comprehensive waste management policies to reduce the use and waste of polluting materials and products; decreasing the use of toxic and potentially carcinogenic chemicals in disinfectants, surfaces and instruments; and reducing food waste in hospitals and other health care facilities (1). 

In addition, the health sector can also collaborate with other sectors to promote greener policies, ensure the implementation of health in all policies, and encourage the adoption of environmental-friendly measures that will ultimately lead to health benefits for the population.  

There is an urgent need for health systems to promote a green recovery and increase their resilience.

Join us at EHMA 2021 to share experiences and discover best practices of how health managers are and can adopt environmental-friendly measures to improve the environmental sustainability of health systems 

1.  OECD/European Union. Health at a Glance: Europe 2020-STATE OF HEALTH IN THE EU CYCLE. 2020.