Healthcare reform is at the forefront of the political sphere in the U.S. right now. While most of the discussion focuses on reform of the insurance industry, greening the healthcare industry is equally important. Also called sustainable medicine, green practices reduce environmental toxins, lead to overall healthy living, and can decrease total healthcare costs.
According to the Center for Sustainable Medicine, the greater environment and our individual bodies mutually benefit from reducing pollutants, insuring the preservation of indigenous and medicinal plants, jointly utilizing information from the fields of traditional medicine, alternative medicine, and environmental studies. Central principles in this movement include:
- Not draining the environment for medicinal needs
- Limiting toxic waste which leads to illness
- Recognizing that we are part of a larger ecosystem and that our bodies are micro-ecosystems. Connection to these ecosystems is necessary for optimum health.
- The health of the body and the environment are directly linked (and "to care for the environment is part of caring for ourselves and others").
Programs such as the Teleosis Institute offer offers online courses on how to "green" healthcare, "understanding that human and environmental health are inextricably linked" and that "toxic free building, literacy around local environmental health issues, and the use of safe, effective, precaution-based medicine are all intrinsic parts of a new system of health care that is good for people and the environment."
Another existing resource is the Green Guide for Healtchare, which has a free downloadable guide for healtchare practitioners, including best practices for healthcare facility consutrction, maintenence, and operations.
The field of sustainable medicine is still in its infancy and I look forward to seeing how it grows, and hopefully how it will eventually be incorporated into general practice and ultimately increase health and decrease costs.