UBC launches new lab to combat healthcare’s environmental impact
From transforming hospital food systems to driving innovation in medical device design, a team of researchers will generate solutions to lessen the footprint of healthcare in B.C.
A new lab created by UBC is bringing together a team of UBC, Vancouver Coastal Health researchers and experts, ranging from doctors and health economists to business experts, to combat the growing environmental impacts of the healthcare industry.
The Planetary Healthcare Lab—representing the first of its kind in Canada—will not only examine the environmental effects of healthcare delivery and services in B.C., but generate solutions to chart a path forward to net zero emissions.
“The health of our communities is inextricably linked to the health of the environment, which is why every industry needs to take a critical look at its activities, including healthcare,” says the lab’s founder and principal investigator Dr. Andrea MacNeill, a clinical associate professor in UBC faculty of medicine’s department of surgery.
In Canada, the healthcare industry is responsible for more than four and a half per cent of greenhouse gas emissions—equivalent to the aviation industry.
“While four and half per cent of greenhouse gas emissions may not sound like much, if we were to decarbonize healthcare, it would actually be equivalent to eliminating air travel,” says Dr. MacNeill, a surgical oncologist in Vancouver and global leader in healthcare sustainability.
The UBC lab, funded through the faculty of medicine’s Strategic Investment Fund, will tackle everything from hospital food-related pollution and unnecessary patient testing and treatment through to emissions stemming from the medical supply chain.
The research team will also study healthcare sustainability through a broader lens, examining the underlying factors responsible for the increased demand for healthcare services and how care delivery can be better integrated to reduce emissions and ultimately improve the health of patients and communities across the province.
For Dr. MacNeill—who has been working towards creating a greener healthcare system for more than a decade—the launch of the new lab at UBC represents an important step forward.
“Right now, there’s so much we don’t know about the environmental footprint of healthcare—which is why the Planetary Healthcare Lab is critical. We’re going to be filling the knowledge void and generating evidence-based solutions that will help create a more environmentally sustainable healthcare system to improve the lives of British Columbians,” says Dr. MacNeill.
Members of the Planetary Healthcare Lab include: Stephanie Alexis, Dr. Kirstin Appelt, Dr. Carl Brown, Marianne Dawson, Dr. Mark Harrison, Dr. Kasun Hewage, Dr. Annie Lalande, Dr. Andrea MacNeill, Dr. Craig Mitton, Emily Peterson, Dr. Rachael Ritchie, Dr. Rehan Sadiq, Dr. Michael Schwandt, Dr. Karina Spoyalo, Dr. Jiaying Zhao.
UBC is committed to taking bold steps to address the climate crisis. To learn more about the actions the university is taking visit climateemergency.ubc.ca.
Published: April 16, 2021