Environment-friendly strategies for patients urged | Inquirer Business

Environment-friendly strategies for patients urged

/ 10:19 PM November 15, 2013

Hospitals, as the primary institutions for health, must be able to provide better nutrition for its patients, while at the same time be also mindful of the environment.

In a nutshell, this was what Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) reminded Philippine hospitals recently.

HCWH has been calling for the elimination of meat products grown with antibiotics and sugary sweet beverages from hospitals’ catering and canteen services. It has also encouraged medical centers to buy from more sustainable growers.


“We’re concerned with diseases that are linked to food, and poor eating habits. Diabetes, obesity and heart disease are linked to poor eating habits. Hospitals should be educating their patients and their employees about eating healthier, and supporting more sustainable food production. They should be creating healthy food environments,” HCWH president and founder Gary Cohen told the Inquirer during an Oct. 15 regional conference on green hospitals in Quezon City.


Cohen stressed that HCWH has been urging hospitals to serve less meat.

“The livestock industry contributes a lot towards greenhouse gas emissions, methane. Also, eating less meat is healthier. It further saves hospitals money. It costs a lot to buy meat,” he said.

He observed: “Increasingly, rainforests are used to create grazing areas. It’s an environmental disaster. We need to change the whole industry around livestock. Hospitals can help lead that way.”

Cohen also raised the alarm on the increased cases of multiresistant diseases arising from hospital settings.

He said: “One of the scariest things for hospitals are those multiresistant strains in bacteria. Seventy-five percent of all antibiotics are not used in healthcare, they are used in livestock production. That’s not good for anybody’s health. We need to protect antibiotics for medical purposes.”

Meat, environment


Inquirer Science/Health reported last year the climate experts’ study that feeding animal products to the world’s billions is now taking its toll. According to them, livestock farming now accounts for the use of 70 percent of the global freshwater and 38 percent of the world’s land-use conversion. Some 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest, in fact, has already been cleared for grazing and feed crop production.

According to the “Livestock and Climate Change” published in the World Watch magazine, livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions. Forbes online, on its April 28, 2012 issue, wrote that the 2006 report estimated that 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, pigs and poultry (chicken) were in fact updated to 51 percent, citing an analysis performed by Robert Goodland, a former World Bank Group environmental adviser, with cowriter Jeff Anhang, an environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corp.

Excess carbon

Goodland, who in 2008 was awarded the first Coolidge Memorial Medal by the International Conservation Union for lifetime achievements in environmental conservation, wrote in his blog: “A shocking 45 percent of all land on Earth is today used for raising livestock and growing crops to feed them. But most land used for livestock and crops can grow trees instead. Reforestation and regeneration of forest are the only ways to create new, large-scale capacity to sequester today’s excess atmospheric carbon. If it is not sequestered, then it will take at least a century to dissipate.”

Goodland added: “Replacing a quarter of today’s livestock products with alternatives would allow forests to regenerate on a vast amount of land. As a result, this may be the only pragmatic way to stop global warming in the next five years—which many experts believe may be the last chance to avoid irreversible climate disruption. It’s the view of the International Energy Agency, not a radical group.

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“Some argue that millions of poor people have no alternative to raising livestock for their livelihoods. But tens of millions of poor people’s livestock have died recently due to climate disasters. Replacing them would risk a similar fate for the new animals. Supporting new livelihoods for those whose livestock die in climate disasters would be less risky. Microfinance, mobile banking, computers and off-grid electricity have generated dramatic growth in many poor rural communities.”

TAGS: Business, Carbon, environment, hospitals, meat, Science and Health

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