Environmentally sustainable health systems: a strategic document (2017)

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This strategic document builds on the evidence that health systems have a considerable environmental impact but that they can also have positive effects on the environment. A vision for an environmentally sustainable health system is put forth, as being a health system that improves, maintains or restores health, while minimizing negative impacts on the environment and leveraging opportunities to restore and improve it, to the benefit of the health and well-being of current and future generations.

Ten avenues for action are proposed that can form the core of a strategy for fostering environmental sustainability in health systems, namely

  • adopting a national environmental sustainability policy for health systems;
  • minimizing and adequately managing waste and hazardous chemicals;
  • promoting an efficient management of resources;
  • promoting sustainable procurement;
  • reducing health systems’ emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution;
  • prioritizing disease prevention, health promotion and public health services;
  • engaging the health workforce as an agent of sustainability;
  • increasing community resilience and promoting local assets;
  • creating incentives for change; and
  • promoting innovative models of care.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe encourages Member States to take an active role in environmental stewardship efforts.