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In response to the need for more sustainable practices needed in health, Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter has launched a new guide.

“The health sector sustainability report highlights encouraging progress on climate change, as well as work that is still needed,” Julie Anne Genter says.

“The health sector is estimated to be responsible for between three and eight percent of carbon emissions in New Zealand, and must take more action to change this.

The guide reinforces the importance of health sector sustainability and the benefits it can bring.”

“These co-benefits are particularly noticeable in transport where increasing the use of active and public transport not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, it also improves cardiovascular health.”

“Sustainable practices help drive better health outcomes for New Zealand and New Zealanders.”

“The guide outlines the good progress being made by DHBs. For instance, the Northland DHB is aiming to reduce its absolute carbon emissions by 15 percent between 2016 and 2025″

“It is a big challenge, but Northland is committed. Each year, it is measuring and auditing its emissions, and in two years they’ve already come down by 10 percent.”

“In Hawke’s Bay, the DHB wanted to improve sustainability, while also balancing the needs of patients and staff traveling to and around its hospital. They developed a Go Well Travel Plan to improve access for low-income families and whānau, promote exercise, reduce their carbon footprint and make better use of the available car parks.”

“In demonstrating this sort of Kiwi pragmatism, Northland, Hawke’s Bay and other DHBs can make real differences. They are identifying where their major sources of emissions are, and where they can make progress. It also helps identify where more work is needed.”

Genter praised the efforts of the Canterbury DHB for establishing the new Christchurch Hospital Energy Centre, and deciding to use woody biomass instead of coal.

“Around the country people are making great strides to tackle the biggest challenge of our time, climate change. I look forward to seeing more progress on reducing our health sector emissions and delivering those health co-benefits to improve equity,” she says.

Dr David Galler, intensive care specialist, Counties Manukau District Health Board, and member of the Sustainable Health Sector National Network, says the health sector sustainability report highlights the work of a few DHBs with fulltime Sustainability Managers/Officers.

“It is evident that those DHBs who have fulltime dedicated staff have been much more successful in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions than those that do not,” he says.

“Those DHBs without dedicated staff could also realise substantial savings and opportunity through appointing dedicated staff.

“Working more closely together with assistance from agencies like the Health Quality & Safety Commission will allow the DHB sector to rapidly accelerate its gains in improving health and well being, and addressing inequities.

“Setting clear expectations around the construction of healthcare facilities to a defined standard, such as those certified as Green Star 5 or 6, can reduce the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions that arise from buildings, operational costs of buildings and improve the wellbeing of patients and staff,” says Galler.

“Green Star Design won’t necessarily incur an additional capital cost. This new approach to investment in hospital infrastructure would substantially differ from what has historically been a single-minded obsession with short term costs – aka value for money. This new approach will redefine value in terms of longer-term carbon, social, and health outcomes against dollar opportunities and costs.

“I look forward to seeing how these recommendations are actioned by district health boards and how the Ministry of Health responds to them.

“I also look forward to working closely alongside DHBs and with Ministry officials to develop building standards, climate change adaptation plans, establish a National Sustainability Unit and improve efforts to engage all DHBs in this work to accelerate our ability to reduce carbon and improve the health and wellbeing of our people,” says Galler.

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