Sustainability in Surgical Practice

A joint EAES and SAGES task force

Background

The health sector is a significant source of pollution worldwide, and paradoxically an unintentional contributor to trends that undermine public health. The health sector’s mandate is to prevent and cure diseases. Yet delivering health care unintentionally contributes to the planetary health problem. It generates significant environmental impact both upstream and downstream from the products and technologies they deploy, the resources they consume, the waste they generate and the buildings they construct and operate.  The healthcare system’s footprint accounts for 4.4% of the net global greenhouse gas emissions,which is equivalent to the annual emissions from 514 coal-fired power plants.  Additionally, the loss of disability-adjusted life years attributed to healthcare emissions is similar to those lost due to medical errors. Surgery is resource-intensive and a significant source of waste production, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States (USA), China, and the European Union States (EU) comprise 56% of the world’s total healthcare climate footprint, with 27%, 17%, and 12% respectively.

Healthcare System emissions derive from three primary sources:

  • emissions emanating directly from healthcare facilities (17%),
  • indirect emissions from purchased energy sources (12%),
  • emissions derived from the healthcare supply chain (71%).

A global problem deserves a global solution. To this aim, EAES and SAGES joined efforts to address the problem and promote sustainable solutions.

Vision

The Sustainability in Surgical Practice task force’s mission is to support surgeons in improving the environmental sustainability of their practice through practical actions through the following actions:

Education.
Inform surgeons, surgical teams and other healthcare professionals about the impact of the surgical practice on the environment, and provide educational content and resources to support a continuous learning process.
Research. 
Evaluate the impact of sustainable initiatives on the environmental impact of surgical practices, clinical outcomes and overall healthcare costs. And develop a network and infrastructure to allow for collaborative research on sustainable practices.
Leading the change. 
Define and disseminate best practices, guidelines, and recommendations to reduce the environmental impact of surgical activities, such as reducing waste and emissions, minimizing energy use, and promoting sustainable sourcing and disposal practices.
Collaborate.
Promote multicentre collaborations, cooperation with other medical associations, institutions, and organisations to spread the adoption of sustainable practices in surgical settings and to raise awareness about the current impact of the surgical practice on the environment.

News

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