Good Medicine

By Janet Howard, Director, Content and Outreach, Healthier Hospitals Initiative on June 4, 2014

HHI is proving to be an environmental success story

We are at The seventh inning stretch of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI)—a campaign to drive environmental engagement in hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. The data submitted through the database of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is over 1,500 strong. Data is used at the hospital level to report progress to staff and in the aggregate—as a community—to message the supply chain and build momentum. The strength of this standardized data is the ability to demonstrate the financial and environmental benefit of reducing energy, transitioning to healthier food systems, purchasing safer materials, and making less waste. The data shows progress, fiscal responsibility, and momentum. We are excited about the Milestone Report—a report that tells stories about data, but also about people and how a healthier environment is quality, is safety, is community, is population health, and is fiscally responsible.

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative is driving change and the data, the case studies, and the media are a guiding path to a healthier future. Any hospital regardless of size or location can benefit from the proven interventions and follow the path to realize the same benefits. Here’s a snapshot of our current 950+ enrollees in Spring 2014.

Strength in Numbers

Thank you to our:

Sponsoring Health Systems

Advocate Health Care*

Bon Secours Health System

Catholic Health Initiatives

Dignity Health*

Gundersen Health System

Hospital Corporation of America*

Kaiser Permanente*

Inova Health System*

MedStar Health*

Partners HealthCare*

Stanford University Medical Center

Tenet Healthcare**

Practice Greenhealth*

Health Care Without Harm*

Center for Health Design*

* Founding Sponsors
** Includes former Vanguard hospitals

Supporting Organizations

American Nurses Association

American Public Health Association


California Hospital Association

The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care

Catholic Health Association

Colorado Nurses Association

Efficiency Vermont

Florida Hospital Association

Health Trust

Healthy Building Network

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement

The Institute for Innovations in Care and Quality


Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment

Massachusetts Hospital Association

The Michigan Center for Rural Health

Michigan Health and Hospital Association

New Hampshire Hospital Association

Ohio Hospital Association

Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems

Wisconsin Hospital Association

Wyoming Pollution Prevention Program

While the data set is growing and hospitals are driving change at the local and regional level, the powerful strength in numbers are also working together to message the supply chain. In February of this year, several HHI sponsoring health systems, hospital enrollees, group purchasing organizations, and food business partners came together at the Kaiser Center for Total Health in Washington, D.C. The aim was to share what healthier food success can look like (from hospitals such as UCSF, Kaiser Permanente and Fletcher Allen to name a few) and develop a strategy for moving toward healthier meat procurement and a process for identifying and tracking local and sustainable products. A follow-up meeting is set for CleanMed to continue working toward the group goals. A powerful healthier food movement is underway and takes both a national and a regional strategy as directed by the group under the leadership of Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food Work Group. This model will serve as a national pilot strategy for other HHI Challenges. A September meeting is under development for the Safer Chemicals Challenge, where hospitals and manufacturers can come together to share success and identify barriers and solutions to furniture, fabric, and finishes free of HHI-identified, chemicals of concern.

HHI has set a goal of enrolling 1,500 hospitals. We are making progress but we aren’t there yet. We in fact have two more innings. And with another year and a half focusing on enrollment and another year of data collection after that—if your hospital isn’t yet enrolled it’s time to join us. It is an opportunity to join the growing movement of positive environmental change—where hospitals are leading by example and showing that their commitment to health and healing includes caring for natural resources and carefully selecting products, services, and food systems.

Hospitals are realizing, through this initiative and with Practice Greenhealth, that the focus on these areas can help meet the strategic priority of their organization—pioneering prevention, population health, employee engagement, and fiscal responsibility.

As Gary Cohen, founder and president of Health Care Without Harm, states in his recent blog, “For every dollar spent on health care, 70 cents is spent for treating diseases and four cents is spent on prevention. Moreover, we spend more money on health care per capita than any nation on earth, yet our health statistics are worse than those of 17 other industrialized countries. Cancer rates are one in two for men and one in three for women. One-third of all Americans are either overweight or obese, contributing to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and a variety of other conditions. Asthma rates for kids continue to climb and learning disabilities affect one in eight children.

“Given current health trends, we will bankrupt the health care system within a generation due to the epidemic rates of chronic disease and escalating costs of treating them—with or without the new health care laws.”

But the Healthier Hospitals Initiative is working to demonstrate the role healthier environments play in the Triple Aim—cost per capita, quality patient experience and population health. It is one more tool in the toolkit. And while it is about continuous improvement, it’s another task to add to an already long list. But with the April 2014 release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, the imperative for action has never been more pressing or evident.

The seventh inning stretch, in baseball and in HHI, is an opportunity to refresh and re-energize. As we look at where we are, we are thankful for all of the HHI enrollees for sharing your successes. We applaud you for taking on a challenge that is outside of your comfort zone, for working with responsible business partners, and for being part of the movement. We appreciate the leadership of Practice Greenhealth and the ability for HHI to capture data from the Practice Greenhealth Awards in the HHI data set (when permission was granted). We congratulate award winners for documenting their progress and continuously striving for more. As we are energized and look forward, we are excited to be leading communities to a healthier future.