How do you define sustainability in healthcare?

Health and well-being sustainable development

This goal is closely related to SDG 2. Considering that the diseases that lead to death for most Europeans are the result of poor nutrition, the best health system cannot avoid the necessary measures for a type of nutrition that prevents these diseases.

Health is one of the areas where multiple interactions between the SDGs are reflected. Urban pollution is one of the examples of negative impacts. From the opposite perspective, for example, promoting sports as an element of physical activity linked to a healthy life and, at the same time, as an educational and cultural space has an important impact on gender and integration issues.

It is necessary to promote measures for the prevention and intensification of disabilities, reducing the impact on the person’s health, quality of life and integration into society’s activities.

Sustainability in healthcare examples

The data may come as a surprise, as the carbon footprint of the healthcare industry in general, and pharma in particular, has received little attention by virtue of its enormous impact in terms of lives saved.

Figure 1: Health sector carbon footprint (HCF) expressed as a percentage of the national carbon footprint, by geographic region where emissions occur (a) and per capita and funding sector (b). Figures 2014 countries with available data. Source:

Healthcare Without Harm (HCWH)10 argues that if the global healthcare sector were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, with a footprint equivalent to the annual emissions of 514 thermal power plants11. 11 This effect is produced by energy consumption, transport and manufacture of products, their use and disposal.

Other reports, such as that of the Sustainable Health Commission of the British National Health System (NHS), focus on the manufacturing process, where a large amount of energy is used to produce the products.

Health and welfare un

The sustainability of the health system as a basis for economic and social development implies analyzing the interrelations between economic, social and environmental aspects in the context of health management. A number of questions arise from this statement: What is considered a sustainable health system? What is its relationship to economic and social development? What is the opinion of those who manage the health system at the highest level?

The current focus of healthcare management, troubled by the emergence of healthcare budgets that consume a large part of the spending capacity of the autonomous communities, is the survival of the system as we know it. Without the possibility of greater leverage, the possible solutions focus on the efficiency of the available resources and, in any case, it is recognized that maintaining the current level of services is not viable without increasing the budget or taking unpopular measures such as health co-payment.

Sustainability in health

It consists of the set of actions and policies that allow the fulfillment, promotion and application of the values and principles that inspire a health and social system, aimed at guaranteeing the right to health of citizens and its durability over time. It is also an approach to the space of social and health care services.

Increasingly, the provision of health services must be as comprehensive as possible, not only from the point of view of health care, but also from the point of view of habitat, food, subsistence, family support, provision of supplies and devices in order to have a better quality of life.

Without health there is no sustainable development; healthy people have more possibilities to learn, work and contribute positively to their economies and societies. Likewise, sustainable development will produce more health. This involves energy, agriculture, labor, transportation and housing. It builds in a virtuous circle that leads to unthinkable indicators. I think it is important that the health sector should take the lead because it knows what policies can generate more impact on health and help set targets. Remembering that this has significance not at the level of national policy, but at the level of proximity, municipalities, communes, regions and provinces.