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 climate-smart 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-smart 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; and climate-smart procurement 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 has begun calculating its carbon footprint and have this far started with quarterly calculations of emissions related to energy consumption, transport and anaesthetic gas use. Over time, the scope will include other activities and supply chain data.
Advocacy and influence
As AKHS progresses, it hopes to learn from others and contribute to the movement within the health sector. AKHS has joined the Global Green and Healthy Hospital Network with this in view.
AKHS also plans to do more to help communities and health systems adapt to and withstand the consequences of extreme weather events. In the process, AKHS will use its voice as health advocates to increase attention to the climate agenda and influence policies and practice at local and global levels.