Healthier Hospitals Initiative Growing

Posted on August 8, 2011

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I stumbled upon the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) the other day, and it piqued my interest.

HHI is “a coalition of leading health systems and organizations committed to improving sustainability and safety across the healthcare sector”. Exploring their site, I read through their agenda, which is the best place to understand HHI’s reason for being and how it expects to achieve its goals. The agenda outlines three main recommendations:

1.  Improve Environmental Health and Patient Safety – achieved through design and operations of safer facilities, more sustainable products, safer chemicals and sustainable food choices.

2.  Reduce Healthcare’s Use of Natural Resources and Generation of Waste – achieved through reduced energy consumption, water conservation, minimized waste stream, pharmaceutical waste and improved transportation strategies.

3.  Institutionalize Sustainability and Safety – achieved through adopting sustainability and safety as strategic imperatives, health literacy community programs, sustainability research and innvation and public policy.

I like that the organization seems to have sprouted from the inside-out, that is, created by hospitals themselves instead of by a third party. I like that it not marketed as a non-profit seeking donations. It is promising that the hospitals in the group have committed to community and policy initiatives that non-providers would have more difficulty achieving. Also, it is nice the group has some recognizable health systems as members and is growing.

However, there are some troubling aspects, too. Among the agenda I did not see any commitment to aspects of goals that give them some teeth, such as a minimum dollar commitment, or target metrics (ways to measure progress toward its mission). I did not see an order, schedule or timetable on any of the suggested activities. And, I did not read about commitment from HHI to existing sustainability and safety programs like the USGBC’s LEED or the GBI’s Green Globes.

The HHI member systems have too much going for them for me to assume, in a conspiracy theory sort of way, that this organization was created to pad a collective civic resume, buffer from community criticism, or manufacture a smokescreen. Yet it is difficult to coordinate groups like this, and I do not see any accountability mechanism in place for the set goals, which makes me doubt how much will actually get done.  I take HHI as a serious band of brothers, and look forward to hearing about their progress—sooner rather than later.

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