As one of the world’s biggest employers, a sustainable healthcare system can play a major role in improving public health. Approaches to healthcare need to be environmentally and financially sustainable through protection of our health, environment and remaining within financial limits. A reduction in ill-health due to health care associated diseases may help to alleviate the pressures put on the healthcare systems, as many pressures are due to high numbers of patients, limited space, funding, and staff.
With an increasing population, and an increasing ageing population there is a great demand for healthcare services. Additionally, anthropogenic effects are causing a rise in diseases which were previously not a major concern for healthcare systems such as pollution-related cancers. An escalation in demand means a need for greater supply. Sustainable management of resources requires waste reduction, efficient energy saving environments and finding ways for potential cash savings. Resources can easily be conserved through little changes in in the utilisation of medical supplies. It is important to reduce the amount of people coming into hospitals. Increasing technology usage for communication could be a beneficial solution to this. Staff that talk to patients via the telephone can prevent people coming to healthcare services when unnecessary. For example, when patients can be directed to do something for themselves, as well as staff talking to patients with long term conditions.
Addressing issues such as fuel poverty and air quality not only improves health, but also saves healthcare services money, as less patients will be emitted due to respiratory related issues. Efforts to encourage staff to travel to work via bike or foot helps to reduce gas emissions contributing to pollution. However, this requires incentives as it makes their commutes to work more time consuming. Health care services already suffer tremendously due to staff shortages, there is a need for diligent workers but a lack of appeal for the job. Battling the stigma of nurses being a ‘female profession’ needs to be dealt with through providing respect for the profession, in addition to more incentive to work in this sector. For example, the NHS pension scheme. A better working environment helps to encourage people to consider the job. Sufficient staff helps to get patients in and out of health care services as quickly as possible.
A simple suggestion to the burdens on healthcare services would be to say, ‘prevent people using them.’ However, even if we do attempt to prevent ill health, with a continuously rising population, what if this doesn’t decrease the number of patients in hospitals? Although encouragement for good health is important, this is a lengthy process. For example, Public Health England has worked on creating a smoke-free generation and the government has introduced a sugar tax. The aims are to improve health which should ultimately reduce lifestyle-associated diseases. The results of these plans will only be seen further into the future so that still leaves us with the issues of the present. That being said, it is highly important to start acting now, as changes may seem minor now but can have a massive effect on our future.
Conclusively, comprehensive framework and evaluation for sustainable public health is absolutely necessary. Failure to improve it limits the health care’s capacity to deal with such issues. Carbon reductions through smarter use of resources within health care systems is vital, staff should be motivated to follow models of sustainable care. Thus, there is a need for prevention, patient empowerment and self-care, lean care systems and low carbon alternatives in order to improve public health.