Sustainable healthcare – Time for ‘Green Podiatry’
journal contributionposted on 13.07.2021, 04:25 by Angela Evans
Background: Healthcare aims to promote good health and yet demonstrably contributes to climate change, which is purported to be ‘the biggest global health threat of the 21st century’. This is happening now, with healthcare as an industry representing 4.4% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Main body: Climate change promotes health deficits from many angles; however, primarily it is the use of fossil fuels which increases atmospheric carbon dioxide (also nitrous oxide, and methane). These greenhouse gases prevent the earth from cooling, resulting in the higher temperatures and rising sea levels, which then cause ‘wild weather’ patterns, including floods, storms, and droughts. Particular vulnerability is afforded to those already health compromised (older people, pregnant women, children, wider health co-morbidities) as well as populations closer to equatorial zones, which encompasses many low-and-middle-income-countries. The paradox here, is that poorer nations by spending less on healthcare, have lower carbon emissions from health-related activity, and yet will suffer most from global warming effects, with scant resources to off-set the increasing health care needs. Global recognition has forged the Paris agreement, the United Nations sustainable developments goals, and the World Health Organisation climate change action plan. It is agreed that most healthcare impact comes from consumption of energy and resources, and the production of greenhouse gases into the environment. Many professional associations of medicine and allied health professionals are advocating for their members to lead on environmental sustainability; the Australian Podiatry Association is incorporating climate change into its strategic direction. Conclusion: Podiatrists, as allied health professionals, have wide community engagement, and hence, can model positive environmental practices, which may be effective in changing wider community behaviours, as occurred last century when doctors stopped smoking. As foot health consumers, our patients are increasingly likely to expect more sustainable practices and products, including ‘green footwear’ options. Green Podiatry, as a part of sustainable healthcare, directs us to be responsible energy and product consumers, and reduce our workplace emissions.