Changing the course of healthcare
This year, the United Nations Climate Change Conference featured the first-ever Health Day. The health of our planet and human health are deeply connected. Our healthcare system is affected by global warming, but also a significant contributor to it. It’s what we call the Healthcare Paradox. Impact Stewards and the Future Economy Forum brought together leaders from healthcare, life sciences, and academia from across the globe to solve this paradox. From the different perspectives that contributed to the discussion arose fresh ideas and solutions for helping solve this paradox. Here are our top insights, from Dubai to you.
1. Work is underway.
Healthcare and life sciences organisations are actively slashing CO2 emissions, reducing (scope 1 & 2) emissions in their operations. Initiatives like adopting 100% renewable energy, curbing single-use plastics, and championing circular economy principles are gaining traction. Healthcare providers eagerly seek a unified framework to tackle scope 3 emissions, enabling them to gauge the climate and biodiversity impact of acquired products. Rapid progress awaits when senior leadership embraces this ethos. Having the CEO on board not only accelerates this shift but also reframes boardroom discussions – from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to sustaining the license to operate. Here, the notion of a trade-off between doing good and sound business sense is debunked.
2. Patients will support you.
Patients globally express a strong desire to support sustainability initiatives. An effective strategy to tap into this enthusiasm is by mapping out patient care pathways. This approach unveils the patient footprint in specific therapy areas, presenting opportunities to trim emissions across the healthcare chain. Healthcare providers have noted that patients value choice and are enthusiastic about contributing extra effort for sustainability. While low-income countries may face pressing concerns, governments can play a pivotal role in prioritising and raising awareness about the climate impact, fostering a shift towards sustainability.
3. Healthy foods are part of the deal.
Let’s acknowledge the transformative role of food as medicine in preventing and managing chronic diseases. Conditions like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are on the rise, straining healthcare services and increasing costs. Many of these ailments are closely tied to dietary habits, emphasising the need for change. Recognizing food’s healing potential is a crucial step toward a healthier future. To support this shift, making healthy food easily accessible is imperative. Governments and policies should actively promote the expansion of health-focused food chains in cities, paving the way for a more vibrant and healthier tomorrow.
4. Flipping the script to prevention.
How about transforming our healthcare model into a proactive, preventative approach, complete with new revenue streams? Achieving this requires a mindset shift within organizations. Harnessing the compelling force of storytelling can be the key to influencing stakeholders. Crafting a narrative that intertwines health, food, and community has the potential to be a potent tool. Consider the impact of a single photograph of a turtle with a straw, which sparked a movement away from plastic straws. Humans are more inclined to alter their behavior when moved by stories rather than raw facts and figures. To bring about significant change, let’s enhance the industry narrative. Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, might reimagine themselves as ‘healthy aging companies,’ transcending the traditional care/cure model.
5. Finding leverage points.
Adopting a system-analysis approach reveals the need for identifying ‘leverage points’ -specific areas within a complex system where a small change can yield significant overall impact. In the Netherlands, a GP prescribed daily walks, forming walking groups to meet demand. In the US, healthcare insurers endorsed vegetable prescriptions for diabetic patients. Viewing health as an interconnected system, taking daily actions – DOT (Do One Thing) – can initiate transformative shifts. Embracing these leverage points can be the catalyst for substantial changes in the broader system.
6 We need to team up for change.
To propel towards a sustainable healthcare system, collaboration is key. Understanding and respecting each other’s challenges and values, let’s unite to drive innovation for a healthier future. Embracing diverse perspectives from all system actors enhances discussions, sparks creativity, and generates actionable insights. Together, we can make a transformative impact.
Thank you Joke Boonstra, Cathy van Beek, Evelyn Brakema, Dorethe Nielsen, Merijn Dols, Hunter Lovins, Birgitte Lund Henneberg and Naglaa Ahmed, for doing this at COP28. We’ll continue our efforts.