Do hospitals and other healthcare practices have a fiduciary duty to practice population health throughout their entire operations? Many think so. After all, the entire U.S. healthcare system does teach prevention, and we all know that prevention depends on the type of environment you are in and the decisions you choose. Healthcare organizations can actively promote healthy living by not only treating patients and prescribing medicine but through modifying the way they operate.
Going green, for instance, is something that has been touted by activists since even before Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” In recent years more of the world, healthcare included, has caught on.
Eleven major healthcare systems recently launched the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) to encourage sustainable practices such as reducing waste, using more environmentally-friendly products and becoming more energy-efficient (hospitals and other science-related facilities are known for being huge energy suckers.)
Another organization, Practice Green Health , is a non-profit membership of healthcare communities that provides resources on a number of items such as green construction techniques and safe recycling of chemicals and tools. Along with the international Healthcare Without Harm, Practice Green Health is hosting CleanMed 2012, a national environmental stewardship conference for healthcare leaders on April 30 to May 2 in Denver, Colo.
The other recent debate about questionable population health choices hits us right in the stomach. HHI also promotes offering healthier food for patients, visitors and staff. Earlier this month, Corporate Accountability International, called on 22 healthcare administrators to remove McDonald’s restaurants from their hospitals. And last December, a UCLA study of 14 major California children’s hospitals found that only 7 percent of the entrees offered to outpatients, visitors and staff were considered healthy.
If uprooting the entire cafeteria is too expensive an option at the moment, consider this positive healthcare trend. Farmers Markets, filled with healthy, natural foods that can be snacked on at the hospital or taken home as ingredients for a wholesome meal, are great additions to an empty courtyard space and have been popping up at hospitals throughout the country.
For the hospitals already on board with these healthy operation trends, great. For those that aren’t, the above resources and organizations are a good place to start. After all, if the world is truly to be a healthier place, who better to lead the trend than those who heal?