A Resilient and Restorative Health Care Sector
Health Care Without Harm believes that the future of health care service delivery can and will move beyond “less harm” to a future where the sector plays a pivotal role in “healing” communities and the planet. Health care is in a unique position to provide transformational leadership on many levels, to firmly embrace the essential link between healthy people and a healthy environment, and to build a new vision of ecological medicine. The twenty-first century hospital can promote the health of its patients, staff, the general public, and the environment through exercising upstream leverage and downstream influence. It can construct and operate facilities are carbon-neutral, zero-waste, and toxic-free; it can help transform supply chains and waste streams through purchasing safe products and technologies; it can model and support healthy, local food systems and healthy communities.
The concept of "restorative health" embraces the idea that there are many aspects to living a healthy life, and that a multitude of factors and conditions contribute to and maintain our overall health. Many of these factors are under our control and can be developed and encouraged within the community.
Because of their overall focus on and understanding of health, the establishment of hospitals as community anchors for health is a critical component in the pursuit of restorative health. Besides providing traditional medical services, hospitals can take a leadership role in community activities that have an impact on public health. For example, hospitals can encourage environmentally sustainable building, advocate for reduced carbon pollution through better transit systems and use of clean energy, help to make green space available for physical activities, and reduce their own air and water pollution. Hospitals also can preserve their standing as a community anchor by developing and modeling resiliency, so that they can continue to operate as community pillars in time of outbreaks of illness or severe weather events.
Hospital staff and medical personnel can serve as advocates for health in the community, as well as contribute to wellness programs and educating and teaching communities by showing them how to take responsibility for their own health needs. Partnership between the community and the hospital is key to achieving restorative health.
This is a future vision of health care that moves beyond doing “less harm” – ie, reducing negative impacts from the design and operation of health care – to a future where the sector “heals” or restores ecological, economic and social capital within communities. Today, Health Care Without Harm is working with leading health care organizations to link diverse environmental and community benefit initiatives together to coalesce this unique, powerful and transformative role for the sector.