Information for Ukrainian refugees / Інформація для українських біженців (click here)
Information for Ukrainian refugees / Інформація для українських біженців (click here)

Climate Change and Healthcare

The team at Clermont Health are concerned about the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report August 2021, which you may have read as “Code Red for Humanity”. This latest IPCC report was unambiguous that human activity is indisputably driving Climate Change. The climate crisis has been described by the Lancet as “biggest global health threat of the 21st century”.

As Ireland is a small country that is part of a global network it can be hard to come to terms with what we can do or what we should do to help. A first step may be to simply start a conversation about it with someone about it. This is a great way of acknowledging the problem and making real the issues in your own mind and to therefore reduce the anxiety associated with persistent doom and gloom climate news. So many of the answers to the climate crisis are in-fact rooted in community response and community resilience. Starting a conversation is very much a part of that.

 

A second way is to make changes in our lifestyles, such as using public or active transport, moving towards a healthy plant based diet and generally by consuming less. However individual changes alone won’t be enough, we also have to rethink how all of our systems can be decarbonised . This means educating ourselves and challenging our leaders (local and national) to design a sustainable and ecologically integrated society.

Finally, while technology will play a role it is important that our relationship to nature is the central theme in what has been called a “green recovery”. In this respect improving our environment has the co-benefit of improving our health.

There is however a paradox in that the healthcare we provide may exacerbate the climate crisis; it is estimated the global healthcare has a carbon footprint that exceeds most Western countries. At Clermont Health we are now seeking ways to incorporate nature into our work. For example, you may be offered a “green prescription” to go walking in the Cooley’s if you have anxiety, depression or high blood pressure etc. Lifestyle interventions have the highest grade of evidence and as such should always be offered as part of a treatment plan. We have also looked to see where we can mitigate our carbon footprint. It turns out that the largest carbon footprint is in our prescribing, and of all prescriptions the largest hot-spot is in Multidose Inhalers (MDIs) for conditions such as asthma. These spray inhalers contain hydrofluorocarbons which have a disproportionate effect on the carbon footprint of healthcare. The NHS estimates inhalers account for 3% of their entire carbon footprint. Thankfully there are much better alternatives, better suited for adults than children, such as Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs) that have great drug delivery but no problematic hydrofluorocarbons.

 

During the first lockdown we decided to calculate the carbon footprint of the inhalers we prescribed, before offering patients a chance to change, in line with the most up to date evidence base. After re-auditing at six months we calculated that the practice and our patients had potentially saved approximately 21, 448 kg of CO2.  This is the equivalent of driving around the globe twice or charging almost 3 million smart phones. As dry powder inhalers may also improve drug delivery, they also mean better health for the patient, better health for the planet, and monetary savings from improved disease management. We hope that in the future we will be able to find other ways to improve clinical care whilst also reducing our carbon footprint. Please see below to a link to the audit. Perhaps once we have made our move to our new premises we can have an information evening about what else we can do going forward.

Link: http://imj.ie/audit-of-the-carbon-footprint-of-inhalers-in-an-irish-general-practice/

 

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