Vinitha Soundararajan and Alisha Patel: Sustainable Healthcare

Vinitha_SoundararajanClimate change, an ageing and growing global population, and depleting planetary resources are well established issues. There is a call for urgent action, especially in healthcare.

The NHS has been scrutinised for being a major contributor to the national carbon footprint. Health services globally need to act more sustainably to maintain the world we live in. Is it too late to act? What can we do about it?
Alisha Patel
What is ‘Sustainable Healthcare’ about?

Authored by an international team of professionals, Sustainable Healthcare provides an in-depth discussion of our current concerns, and balances them against potential solutions.

The authors clearly explain the concept of sustainable healthcare, the challenges, and how it can be successfully implemented. Their ideas and solutions are supported by scientific evidence, and are presented in a concise and transparent manner.

Each chapter focuses on an individual topic, with a recurrent theme suggesting several practical ways through which we can make the health sector more efficient. Interventions which improve the health of people can also be beneficial for the planet.

The various case studies allow us to understand the challenges we face. These include the failure to achieve contraception for women globally, medicines waste in polypharmacy, and inadequate social prescribing in mental health care.

The scenarios also offer solutions. These include telecommunication, advice about how to reduce medicines waste, and incentivising “active travel.” This also incorporates illness prevention (e.g. reduces risk of cardiovascular disease) as well as improving environmental wellbeing.

The primary vision put forward by this book is how sustainable healthcare can deliver on the “triple bottom line of quality of care, environment protection and cost containment.” Although this appears to be an ambitious vision, the manner in which the authors have collated their ideas offer the reader realistic ways through which this vision can be brought to life. Key actions are listed at the end of every chapter. These work as a motivational tool for readers.

The authors call upon health professionals, educators, managers, and students to lead and implement change, not just reflect on what is currently happening. The book questions current practices and provides suggestions for these various professions from which they can choose ideas to build on.

For health professionals especially, empowering patients through health coaching can encourage sustainability through self-care. Health coaching enables patients to better understand their condition, working together with their health professional to manage their condition.

For students, this guide encourages eagerness to learn within medical schools, giving examples of those that are already teaching these issues in their curriculum.

This book is not only relevant for those experienced in healthcare. The chapter on food is an example. It outlines simple ways of eating more sustainably with the added benefit of improving mental and physical health.

Moreover, the extensive reading lists after each chapter, coupled with summaries and action plans, makes this book a comprehensive read.

Overall, regardless of the reader’s experience with and involvement in healthcare, this book provides a thorough and concise guide in which people in healthcare can learn and put these ideas into practice; the ultimate goal being healthcare which is of high quality, manageable cost, and of low environmental impact in order to work towards a sustainable system.

Vinitha Soundararajan and Alisha Patel are medical students currently at the Norwich Medical School, with a keen interest in global health. They previously wrote an article titled, ‘Doctor, Will Global Warming Make My Allergies Worse?‘, published by the Student BMJ.