Reducing the environmental impact of global health aid is essential, expert says
New research by Dr. Bridget Pratt at ACU's Queensland Bioethics Center argues that global health aid—the delivery of health services to underserved populations in resource‐poor areas of the world—should be sustainable as a matter of climate justice and solidarity.
The health care sector is responsible for 4.4% of the world's greenhouse gases.
No estimates currently exist for the environmental footprint generated by global health practices, but it generates substantial emissions through models of care, transport, procurement, waste generation, and infrastructure energy and water use.
Dr. Pratt said the delivery of health services to low and middle-income countries should be more sustainable to reduce the impact of climate change.
"Sustainable health care has emerged as a way for health care sectors in affluent countries to help mitigate climate change by reducing their emissions.
"But there has been a lack of consideration about our ethical responsibility to reduce the environmental footprint of global health aid.
"Reducing climate change-related risks and harms for the vulnerable is integral to the mission of global health and it is vital to consider the climate impact of its practice.
"The people the field of global health is trying to help are the ones experiencing the greatest climate change‐related impacts on their health and well‐being.
"These effects are occurring now and are predicted to worsen, from increasing chronic undernutrition, respiratory impacts, heat stroke and death.
"The field has a duty to provide sustainable health services that are responsive to climate change."
Dr. Pratt said part of the solution was to provide more sustainable health care and build a global low-emissions health care infrastructure in low and middle-income countries.
This could include eliminating redundant tests, prescribing drugs with lower carbon footprints, embracing telehealth to reduce travel, procuring goods and services locally and reducing reliance on single use plastics.
Dr. Pratt is an ethics researcher and the mater lecturer/senior lecturer in health care ethics at Queensland Bioethics Center, Australian Catholic University. Her research on the ethics of sustainable global health practice was published in Bioethics.
More information: Bridget Pratt, Sustainable global health practice: An ethical imperative?, Bioethics (2022). DOI: 10.1111/bioe.13071
Provided by Australian Catholic University