Kaiser Permanente, Health Care Leaders Commit to Greener Hospitals

Kaiser Permanente, Health Care Leaders Commit to Greener Hospitals

At a meeting of some of the country's top health care organizations here yesterday, Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO, announced the creation of the Global Health and Safety Initiative (GHSI), a first-of-its-kind sector wide partnership to green the health care industry and improve patient and worker health and safety.

Kaiser joined with the non-profit groups the Center for Health Design and Health Care Without Harm, as well as other health care companies, to create the voluntary guidelines of GHSI.

"As a major purchaser and builder of health care facilities, we believe health care has a moral and social responsibility to find opportunities to reduce its environmental impact and help create healthy, safe environments for patients and staff," said Bob Eisenman, the Director of Public Policy for Kaiser's National Facilities Services. "Our hope is that through this Global Health and Safety Initiative, many more leaders in the health care sector will realize the need to work together to bring this vision to reality."

The members of the GHSI see significant potential for the industry to make an impact on the environment and in creating a green economy, driving markets for cleaner energy, healthier products and non-toxic products, as well as creating an overarching vision for a healthy economy.

"The health care sector is gearing up to lead our society to a carbon neutral, toxic-free future. We are committed to a broad vision of health and wellness for our patients, our workers, the communities we serve and the planet that sustains all of us," said Gary Cohen, Co-Executive Director of Health Care Without Harm.

Debra Levin, President and CEO of the Center for Health Design, added that, "By bringing together these organizations, combining their resources, leveraging areas of expertise, and sharing best practices, a new level of focus can be put on improving patient safety, worker/workplace safety, and environmental health and safety throughout the entire health care industry."

Among the objectives of the GHSI that were announced yesterday, the group plans to develop a purchasing task force focused on prioritizing safer and environmentally sustainable products and supplies, as well as cleaner energy and innovative green technologies in its facilities.

The GHSI will also work to develop an eco-footprint model for the health care industry, which will incorporate the use of toxic materials into standard calculations of environmental footprints, something the group says is not currently the norm for eco-footprinting.

In addition to these goals, the GHSI aims to collaborate on ways to remove the barriers to innovation in health care, and to create an open-source community to share best practices and lessons learned on the path to greening health care.