Sustainable Medicine: The Future of Healthcare

21 July 2022


Sustainable medicine seeks to provide better and more effective patient care by acknowledging the relationship between the environment and patients’ health and well-being. According to an international panel of experts, climate change is the “greatest global health challenge of our century.”

As social and environmental factors deteriorate, people’s health are expected to be negatively affected

Based on these views, sustainable medicine is an important matter and an urgent agenda.

The four elements of sustainable clinical care are:

  • Preventive measures
  • Empowering patients and teaching them to care for themselves
  • Creating lean systems
  • Providing low-carbon alternatives

These concepts have been used extensively in recent years due to their demonstrated success in improving the delivery of healthcare at reduced costs. In the next sections, we provide more information on what sustainable medicine is, its goals, why it’s important, and where we stand in terms of achieving its objectives.

What Is Sustainable Medicine?

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is one of the most significant contributors to climate change. The World Health Organization estimates that healthcare contributes up to 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a number that’s expected to rise in the future. According to another source, the US healthcare system is responsible for 10% of the country’s carbon emissions and up to 9% of non-greenhouse contaminants.

What can we do about it?

Creating healthcare systems that make people more resilient is a challenging task. This is because a low-carbon system requires a structure that can support change. 

An easily attainable example of sustainable medicine is the use of telemedicine. Instead of face-to-face medical consultations, they can be conducted over the internet or through the phone, especially in non-critical cases. 

What Is the Goal of Sustainable Medicine?

Sustainable medicine is an emerging field that addresses healthcare’s environmental, social, and economic impacts. Sustainable medicine aims to create an environmentally friendly, equitable, and affordable healthcare system. 

To achieve this, sustainable medicine practitioners are working to reduce waste, promote preventive care, increase sustainability in doctor-patient relationships, and develop more efficient and environmentally friendly treatments. In addition, sustainable medicine also seeks to improve access to care by expanding healthcare coverage and making it more affordable. 

By working to address the environmental, social, and economic impacts of healthcare, sustainable medicine can create a more sustainable and equitable healthcare system.

How Do Clinic Communities Try To Achieve Sustainability in the Health System?

Medical communities are looking to achieve sustainability in different ways. 

One way is to focus on the long-term development of healthcare workers. For example, a clinic might provide mentorship and training for new doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals so they can be more effective in their jobs from the very beginning. 

Another way is to focus on educating young people about health and wellness before they become sick as a form of preventive care. This can help them avoid chronic conditions later in life and significantly lower their medical bills.

Furthermore, clinic communities can further their sustainability efforts by incorporating health screenings such as blood pressure and cholesterol tests into their standard procedures. Doing so can help their patients manage their conditions and promote overall health and wellness.

A focus on sustainability can reduce the expenses and need for medical consultations. For example, a clinic community can provide education on how to prevent common medical problems like diabetes, asthma, etc. This can reduce the number of patients who develop the condition in the future.

Why Is It So Important To Teach Sustainability to Medical Students?

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in medicine and healthcare. Students need to be aware of more eco-friendly solutions in medicine so they can become doctors who promote long-term health and wellness.

Teaching sustainability to medical students can include an understanding of how different types of chemicals are used in the hospital, what kinds of waste are generated by these chemicals, and how to dispose of them properly.

The Takeaway: Sustainable Medicine Is Critical for the Future of Healthcare

It ensures that we can continue providing quality care to patients while lowering costs and reducing environmental impact. 

It will take time for sustainable medicine to become a mainstream practice, but with the help of physicians willing to adopt more sustainable practices, it’s a very real and better possibility.

The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) supports sustainable medicine. We believe that climate change and health are interrelated. The continuing deterioration of our environment is leading to a public health emergency that can be jointly addressed by medical professionals around the world. 

Learn how you can be part of this important movement by visiting our Green Your Practice webpage