Do no harm: Healthcare professionals address sustainability and climate change I Economist Impact – Economist Impact

Climate change is creating a health emergency. In a survey of hospital doctors and nurses in France, Germany and the UK, many agreed they need to better prepare patients and adapt their healthcare systems to be more sustainable.
Most respondents believe climate change will moderately or significantly affect the physical (62%) and mental (58%) health of their patients.
52% of respondents say those living with chronic conditions are at most risk from climate change, followed by the elderly (41%) and those from lower socioeconomic groups (41%). All three nations have a high proportion of older people and those living with a chronic illness.  

13% of respondents saw patients clinically impacted by climate change on a weekly basis in the last year. 
In 10 years’ time, 24% of respondents expect to see patients clinically impacted by climate change on a weekly basis.

Hospital doctors and nurses think heatwaves and air pollution are the major climate change factors contributing to ill health. France, Germany and the UK are susceptible to the extremes of heat, according to a composite score by the Lancet [4] ,  which captures the proportion of older people (65 plus), those living with chronic disease and the share of the population living in urban areas.
Germany and the UK committed to transforming their healthcare systems to be more sustainable and low carbon at COP26. France did not.  Nearly one-third (31%) of all respondents selected that their hospital had a decarbonisation plan, but without a net-zero target date. This was the most popular choice by country: 40% of respondents in the UK selected it, which suggests the NHS has more advanced sustainability plans, compared with 26% in France and 28% in Germany. More work is needed in Germany where 26% said they did not know if their hospital had a decarbonisation plan in place.

And they want their employers to provide education and training and to encourage greater adoption of greener procurement practices.
Many hospital doctors and nurses want to help hospitals reach net-zero, from educating patients, redesigning clinical pathways or taking a leadership role. Only 12% of respondents said they did not have time or resources to be involved.
Note on the survey:
The survey was conducted in March 2022 with 150 doctors and nurses working in hospitals  (50 each from France, Germany and the UK). Written by Elizabeth Sukkar, senior research manager, global health, policy and insights, Economist Impact. June 2022

This independent research covers the intersection of climate change and healthcare systems in Europe, and how healthcare professionals are responding to climate change and improving sustainability.
[1] World Bank
[2] World Bank, (latest years available)
[3] OECD Health at a glance, 2021,
[1] World Bank
[2] World Bank, (latest years available)
[3] OECD Health at a glance, 2021,
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Climate change is a health issue with particular effects on respiratory health. This research summarises the direct and indirect evidence that links climate change to lung health and maps out policy priorities to prevent and curb the effects of climate change on lung health.
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