Take the Challenge

By Janet Brown, EDAC Director of Facilities Management and Outreach, Healthier Hospitals Initiative on April 24, 2012

What is your health care facility committing to?

In partnership with the Center for Health Design and eleven sponsoring health care systems, Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth provide resources through the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), a three-year initiative to help hospitals use their collective sustainability experience, purchasing power, and industry representation to speed the process of greening the health care sector. HHI is a mobilization strategy to embed sustainability into the culture and daily operations of American health care, with the benefits of improved health of patients, staff, and the community; reduced environmental impact by the sector; and considerable fiscal savings that reduce the overall national health care costs in the United States through better public health.

Imagine—in three years time, HHI will result in quantifiable data, demonstrating cost savings and environmental benefits to interventions in six areas of focus. The initiative will result in mass engagement of environmental stewardship as a core pillar in the health care model. It will be valued as more than an exercise in responsibility but viewed as standard operating procedure. The data and its associated stories will speak to wellness, healthy communities, engaged workers and quality patient care as described in the triple aim—population, quality, and financial benefit.

Data Speaks Volumes

Practice Greenhealth members are accustomed to using data for tracking environmental performance. Practice Greenhealth’s Environmental Excellence Awards Program has resulted in a Sustainability Benchmark Report that identifies sector benchmarks, low hanging fruit, and emerging issues. The awards data has demonstrated the financial and environmental benefit of several environmental interventions. For example, page three of the 2011 Sustainability Benchmark report shares cost savings from single-use device reprocessing, solvent distillation, and energy conservation, to name a few.

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative takes this strategy one step further. By identifying a set of specific, measurable environmental interventions using a standardized reporting structure, the initiative will quantify the outcomes of six specific areas of focus, clearly demonstrating the financial and environmental value.

While many Practice Greenhealth members have realized the value through their own experience, HHI will engage those either just getting started or those that have not yet engaged in environmental stewardship activities to date. This will send a clear message to consumers, patients, and staff that the health care sector is the anchor for health in communities, and demonstrating their commitment through action. The HHI offers a valuable opportunity for the sector as a whole.

Practice Greenhealth members, as early adopters, are well positioned to participate or even play a leadership role in HHI. While any hospital can enroll at no charge and commit to a minimum of one “Challenge” area, many Practice Greenhealth members will be in a position to submit data for Challenges that have already been realized and use the three-year campaign to address new areas of focus.

Six Challenges of HHI

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative has developed six areas of focus. Each area of focus has varying levels of achievement. In order to participate in HHI, hospitals will commit to at least one of the challenges, which are outlined below.

Each of the challenge areas offers a variety of interventions with specific methodology for data collection and reporting. Hospitals commit to a minimum of one challenge and through the Practice Greenhealth Mentor Program, webinars, forums, case studies, and other resources, have access to the information they need to successfully engage with that specific challenge.

Leaner Energy
  • Partner with ENERGY STAR for energy performance tracking and conservation
Less Waste
  • Gather baseline data
  • Recycling
  • Red bag reduction
  • Construction and demolition debris recycling
Smarter Purchasing
  • Use of the standardized environmental Questions for medical products
  • Surgical kit reformulation
  • EPEAT computer purchase
  • Single-use device reprocessing
Safer Chemicals
  • Mercury elimination
  • Green cleaning
  • DEHP and PVC reduction
  • Healthy interiors
Healthier Foods
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy beverages
  • Local and sustainable foods
  • Healthy meals through Partnership for a Healthier America
Leadership and Culture
  • Environmental charter language, committee structure and the infrastructure for environmental stewardship

So whether just getting started or pushing the envelope, HHI seeks a massive momentum to demonstrate the benefits of environmental improvement activities. Your participation is critical to its success. This initiative is another opportunity to shine and to join your facility efforts with others across the United States. The health care sector has an opportunity to join forces and send the message loud and clear that hospitals are leading communities to a healthier future.

Learn More and Get Involved

Healthier Hospitals Initiative

Practice Greenhealth Mentor Hospital Program

Sponsoring Health care Systems

  • Advocate Health Care
  • Bon Secours Health System
  • Catholic Health Initiatives
  • Dignity Health
  • HCA (Hospital Corporation of America)
  • Inova Health System
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • MedStar Health
  • Partners HealthCare Systems
  • Tenet Health
  • Vanguard Health Systems


  • Health Care Without Harm
  • Practice Greenhealth
  • The Center for Health Design

See February/March Greenhealth magazine for HHI Introduction or learn more at www.healthierhospitals.org.