‘Green UHC’: Paving the way for sustainable healthcare in developing and emerging countries at WHC 2023

Date:  21 December 2023

‘Green UHC’: Paving the way for sustainable healthcare in developing and emerging countries at WHC 2023

Responding to the sustainability agenda is a long-term challenge for the healthcare sector globally, including in emerging and developing countries. This urges us to adopt a long-term vision and work towards the development of low-carbon, resilient and health promoting/equitable health systems across all stages of their development.

What should be considered upfront to avoid developing health systems in carbon and resource intensive ways?

How does climate resilience and net zero healthcare fit in the global sustainability discussion, resilience, and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programmes?

A ‘Green UHC’ session hosted by the Geneva Sustainability Centre and the French Development Agency (AFD) at the 46th IHF World Hospital Congress, aimed to start addressing these questions. The session, chaired by Geneva Sustainability Centre’s Executive Director, Sonia Roschnik, was presented by representatives from AFD, Predisan Health Ministries in Honduras, the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, and Aga Khan Health Services. Here are the key takeaways from this session.

Financing

As climate and health becomes increasingly important on the policy agenda, related finances and investments also need to be prioritized. This includes international and domestic funds for climate and development, that should also be dedicated to the healthcare sector. Funds should support pilot programmes to demonstrate the savings and return on investments on the short, medium and long term, knowing that the costs of inaction will only keep increasing. While ‘green funds’ and ‘green credit lines’ are increasingly available, awareness about these options and data to support applications are key.

Awareness, competencies, and data

The session speakers and participants highlighted the need for awareness, capacity building and data generation through specific tools. This applies to a broad spectrum of processes, including staff training, conducting sustainability and vulnerability assessments, and measuring a hospital’s carbon footprint. Leadership competencies and board commitment are fundamental to raise awareness about climate and health, develop and implement an effective strategy, receive funding, and sustain these efforts over time and throughout the organization.

Long-term impacts and actions

Realizing the long-term impacts of climate change on human health, places and the planet urges us all to act now to become more resilient and sustainable. This long-term approach is key, and members of the panel and of the audience also called for a systemic response. This includes the recognition of linkages at various levels (e.g. interconnected priorities for health and climate; multidimensions of sustainability; partners and suppliers within the communities; integration between levels of care) and how to leverage them through coalitions and innovation. This discussion extends the scope of sustainability beyond environmental sustainability; it is an opportunity to explore how net-zero healthcare can play its role for the transformation of hospitals in a sustainable and integrated system that would provide universal access to health.

The active and rich discussions highlighted the importance of addressing this topic, and the interest within the IHF network to do so. The IHF and the Geneva Sustainability Centre will continue to explore hospital transformation in emerging and developing settings in 2024. Please contact us to find out more or to provide any suggestion.

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