Hospitals Launch Drive To Help Environment, Lower Costs


"Ditch Fast Food, Turn Down The Lights," is the takeaway of this Kaiser Health News story about a new national initiative by hospitals (including Boston-based Partners HealthCare) to be more enviromentally friendly — while also saving money:

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative challenges hospitals to reduce energy use and waste, purchase environmentally friendlier products and serve healthier foods. The effort is as much about reducing health risks and environmental damage, as it is about lowering costs, officials said.

Organizers, who hope to have 2,000 hospitals participating by 2014, did not list specific goals such as units of energy saved, waste reduced or unhealthy food discarded in a press briefing Tuesday...

Kathy Gerwig, a vice president at Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente (which is not affiliated with Kaiser Health News), said her company weighs environmental impact in buying intravenous bags, as well as computers.

It is also offering healthier food to patients and staff. Dozens of hospitals, including more than 25 children’s hospitals, now offer food from fast food restaurants, she said, adding, “That needs to change.”

Partners Healthcare, which runs Massachusetts General Hospital among other facilities, has reduced energy consumption by 9 percent in the past 18 months by turning down the heat and lowering air conditioner use, said John Messervy, director of capital and facility planning. The move is part of an effort to reduce energy use by 25 percent by 2014.

“If a hospital is fundamentally committed to health, then it has an obligation to make a positive environmental change,” he said.

The 2010 health law helped inspire the green initiative because it prods medical centers to lower costs, as well as to identify benefits they provide to their communities, said Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm, a nonprofit group working on the effort.

This program aired on April 4, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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