Two decades of sustainable healthcare in Europe
HCWH President and Founder Gary Cohen and Executive Director for Europe Will Clark reflect on two decades at the centre of the sustainable healthcare movement in Europe.
In 1996 the US Environmental Protection Agency identified medical waste incineration as the leading source of dioxins, one of the most potent carcinogens. This triggered a growing awareness about the environmental impact of modern healthcare practices and, by extension, the threat these practices pose to human health and well-being.
Health Care Without Harm was founded in direct response to this threat - 28 organisations came together in California to form a coalition that grew into an international organisation. In 2003, HCWH Europe was formed with the immediate goal to ban mercury healthcare devices following early success in the US. Mercury thermometers were successfully banned in 2007 and mercury blood pressure devices in 2012.
Over the last twenty years, we have realised that healthcare sits at the epicentre of the climate crisis, taking care of people affected by extreme weather, flooding, and increases in chronic diseases. At the same time, healthcare is itself a driver of the crisis through its reliance on fossil fuels, both to power healthcare facilities and throughout the sector’s supply chains. Over the next decade, healthcare can lead the transformation to a low carbon and toxic-free economy and build resilience into its infrastructure and the communities it serves.
HCWH Europe has now been at the centre of the sustainable healthcare movement in Europe for two decades. Though many challenges remain - the climate crisis, antimicrobial resistance, and the proliferation of single-use devices to name three - we are proud to have established an ever-expanding network of sustainable healthcare leaders in Europe. Healthcare systems, national and regional authorities, hospitals and care providers, partner organisations, and committed individuals all working together to build a healthcare sector that reduces its impact on our natural environment and improves health outcomes.
To mark our 20th anniversary, we will release an ambitious and groundbreaking report that charts the development of sustainable healthcare in Europe over the last two decades. This report will celebrate the very best in sustainable healthcare innovation and practice and create a vision of where the sector can go in the next 20 years.
If you have any memories of HCWH Europe from the last 20 years that you would like to share, please get in touch: email@example.com.