As health care providers, Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) has a particular responsibility to invest in health care approaches that take care of current patients’ needs while safeguarding the well-being of future generations, too. The hospitals and health centres of AKHS therefore promote actions that continue to deliver quality care but that are simultaneously good for the environment. Good stewardship of the environment is one of the cornerstones of AKDN’s (and AKHS’s) ethical framework.
Health service delivery
AKHS' overall approach to climate and environmentally-friendly health care is based on:
- Emphasising health promotion, disease prevention and primary health care. The aim is to avoid people getting sick in the first place, which in turn, prevents the need for travel, diagnostic and medical interventions – all of which have high costs to patients as well as the environment.
- Using technology to help patients receive information and care close to home. AKHS uses and plans to invest further in digital health solutions, telephone consultations and telemedicine to support remote diagnosis and consultations. This, in turn, limits travel needs but also allows for quicker detection and resolution of health problems – all of which are also good for the environment as well as patients.
- Using evidence-based approaches driven by population health needs. The philosophy of this approach is to minimize unnecessary consultations, interventions and treatment.
All new facilities are designed to meet the best of possible environmental standards. AKHS is also actively retrofitting older facilities – with an emphasis on reducing carbon-emissions, air pollution, energy and water consumption. AKHS is also considering necessary preparations and adaptations for more severe weather extremes as a result of changes in climate.
AKHS has an ongoing work agenda to increase the use of renewable energy and gain energy efficiencies both within its larger hospitals and its field operations. AKHS is also actively pursuing ways to minimise waste through more prudent use of items and better waste management.
A large part of the agenda focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through innovations in transport, water consumption (recycling and conservative use) and air-pollution; as well as using a carbon lens to guide purchasing decisions for pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food and other products. Efforts are underway to work with suppliers to identify and address hotspots.
All operations have annual action plans based on improving energy efficiency, reducing consumption, waste and carbon footprint. AKHS is monitoring its carbon footprint through quarterly calculations of emissions related to standard factors such as energy consumption and transport, as well as health-specific items such as anaesthetic gas and inhaler use. Importantly, AKHS also calculates the impact of procurement, which accounts for between 70-90% of its total footprint.
Advocacy and influence
As AKHS progresses, it learns from others and shares its experience with others within as well as outside the health sector. With this in view, AKHS is collaborating strategically to share its expertise and tools with local governments and other partners such as the World Health Organisation. AKHS is also involved in various fora, including the Health and Climate Network and Global Green and Healthy Hospital Network.
Furthermore, AKHS engages with communities and health systems to support adaptations to withstand the consequences of extreme weather events. In the process of implementing programmes, AKHS uses its voice as a health advocate to increase attention to the climate agenda and to influence local and global policies and practice.