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Kaiser Permanente Environmental Leader Makes the Case for Hospitals to Help Heal the Planet

New book offers timely insight into the movement to ‘green’ the health care system

August 13, 2014



Kathy GerwigKathy Gerwig, vice president of Employee Safety, Health and Wellness, and Environmental Stewardship Officer

OAKLAND, Calif. — In a newly released book, Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet, Kaiser Permanente’s environmental stewardship officer, Kathy Gerwig, explores a universal paradox of health care: As hospitals deliver life-saving care to individuals, their substantial environmental footprint can often be detrimental to environmental and community health.

book cover of Greening Health CareGreening Health Care examines the intersection of health care and environmental health, analyzing failures and describing the revolution that is currently underway to fix them. From the health implications of climate change to creating a healthier food system and minimizing hospital waste, Gerwig provides a clear picture of what is happening now in the movement to green health care and what we can expect in the future.

Health care activities as a whole contribute 8 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced in the United States. Gerwig believes that the health care sector has an obligation to reduce its environmental impact and usher in a new industry standard for health care delivery, one that embraces environmental stewardship.

“Health care has a large environmental footprint, but it can also play a crucial role in addressing the major environmental challenges of our time,” Gerwig explained. “The health of the environment is directly tied to the health of communities. By eliminating or mitigating environmental contributors to disease, we in health care can create healthier communities and help people lead healthier lives.”

Recognizing that these challenges are larger than any one health organization can address alone, Greening Health Care highlights how hospital systems and others in health care can come together to work toward a common goal.

“For 20 years, Kaiser Permanente has led the health care sector in reducing our societal addictions to fossil fuels, toxic chemicals and industrial agriculture,” said Gary Cohen, president and executive director of Health Care Without Harm, a non-profit coalition working to transform the health sector worldwide to become ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice. “Their success shows the impact hospitals can make in greening health care and together we have helped build a global movement in service of healing communities and the planet.”

Published by the Oxford University Press, Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet is now available at leading book retailers, including online at Amazon.com and BN.com. All proceeds from the book will be donated to Health Care Without Harm. To learn more about the book and to read excerpts, visit share.kp.org/greeninghc.

About the Author
As vice president and environmental stewardship officer, Kathy Gerwig is responsible for organizing and managing a nationwide environmental initiative for Kaiser Permanente. Under her leadership, Kaiser Permanente has become widely recognized as an environmental leader in the health care sector. Gerwig has testified twice to Congress on the need for federal chemical policy reform, and she has appeared at numerous hearings on environmental issues.

About Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. OUP is the world’s largest university press with the widest global presence. It currently publishes thousands of new publications a year, has offices in more than fifty countries, and employs some 6,000 people worldwide. It has become familiar to millions through a diverse publishing program that includes scholarly works in all academic disciplines, bibles, music, school and college textbooks, children’s books, materials for teaching English as a foreign language, business books, dictionaries and reference books, and academic journals.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve approximately 9.5 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.