As our climate changes, health systems and health care facilities come under mounting pressure, making it harder for health professionals to keep people healthy from increasingly severe climate impacts.
New WHO guidance for Climate Resilient and Environmentally Sustainable Health Care Facilities provides health professionals and health care facility managers with key tools and interventions to strengthen health care facilities in the context of climate change. The aim is to enable health care facilities to anticipate, respond to, recover from and adapt to climate-related shocks and stresses, while minimizing negative impacts on the environment and leveraging opportunities to restore and improve it.
“Healthcare facilities are the frontline in protecting lives – but too often they are vulnerable to extreme weather events and long-term climate change. This guidance equips health planners, facility managers and financial investors to understand how to make them resilient to climate risks, and to reduce their environmental footprint, to place us on the path to a healthy and sustainable future,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health, WHO.
Ensuring sustainable access to essential services in health care facilities – such as renewable energy and water, sanitation and hygiene measures – would also improve climate resilience and bring near-term financial returns.
The WHO guidance provides a broad range of interventions for health sector decision makers to enhance both climate resilience and environmental sustainability along the four fundamental requirements for providing safe and quality care in the context of climate change:
- the health workforce;
- water, sanitation, hygiene and health care waste management;
- sustainable energy services;
- Infrastructure, technologies and products.
“When small island nations talk about the impacts of climate change, we are mindful that our unique identities, our health and our very existence are under threat. Fiji is finalizing its national guidelines for climate resilient and environmentally sustainable health care facilities. The guidelines will be used to support health care facilities in vulnerable areas to remain operational and provide essential health services during and after extreme weather events, and will at the same time responsibly reduce their carbon footprints,” said Dr Jemesa Tudravu, Chief Medical Adviser, Ministry of Health & Medical Services, Fiji.
Image: This medical facility in Saint Vincent, a small island state in the Caribbean, installed a renewable energy system to improve its access to reliable energy, since the electricity grid often experiences power-outages during cyclone season. This intervention has helped the facility to reduce its environmental footprint while increasing its resilience to climate change impacts. ( © PAHO)
The guidance responds to the WHO’s Global Strategy on Health, Environment and Climate Change its goals to sustainably improve lives and well-being through healthy environments, and specifically goal 8:
“All health care facilities and services are environmentally sustainable: using safely managed water and sanitation services and clean energy; sustainably managing their waste and procuring goods in a sustainable manner; are resilient to extreme weather events; and capable of protecting the health, safety and security of the health workforce.”