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Guest Section Editor

Brian D Westerberg, MD, FRCSC, MHSc,
Clinical Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada;
Head, Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery,
Providence Health Care, Vancouver, Canada.  

Climate change is the greatest threat to human health today. As reported by the World Health Organization, within the next decade it is estimated the direct cost to health will be between USD 2-4 billion/year. The seemingly daily occurrence of heat domes, floods, forest fires and other environmental calamities are the overt manifestations of climate change on our planet.

The healthcare profession is not without blame, with the healthcare sector in any given country contributing 3-10% towards national greenhouse gas emissions. In this issue, we have compiled a series of articles that critically evaluate the impact of our profession and present mitigating solutions to reduce its effects.

Sustainability is a term used frequently in relation to planetary impact: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In her article, Marion Palmer discusses what sustainability can and should look like for corporations and for individuals.

The amount of waste produced each day in our hospitals is mind-boggling. Perfectly functioning equipment is not infrequently replaced when it has reached its ‘end of life’. However, if parts are no longer available, 3D printing offers an alternative solution. Matthew Bromwich reports one such successful endeavour to prolong the functional lifespan of equipment essential to our trade.

Increasingly, corporations worldwide are required to publish reports on their social and environmental risks, and the impact of their activities on people and the environment. Once identified, measures can be instituted to minimise the planetary impact of corporate activities. Jan-Willem Wasmann and Jan de Laat report on a Delphi Consultation with hearing healthcare companies regarding environmental, social, and governance activities. Clearly a complex problem without a simple solution; nonetheless, areas were identified where changes could be instituted easily.

Each year, the healthcare conference industry produces carbon emissions equivalent to those produced in the entire United States of America. Obviously, this is hypocritical for an industry committed to improving patient health. Min Joon Kim, Sukham Brar, Brian D Westerberg, and Julie E Strychowsky offer tangible suggestions used to decrease the environmental impact of conferences.

Within our hospitals, the operating rooms are the greatest source of carbon emissions. The advent of single-use instruments is but one trend that has a significant impact on in unnecessarily increasing carbon emissions. In our final article, Sukham Brar, Min Joon Kim, Brian D Westerberg, and Julie E Strychowsky offer 10 tangible changes we can easily institute in our operating rooms without negatively impacting patient care.

Like “a thousand points of light”, each of which alone is insufficient but together can light up the sky, so can we make a difference collectively to mitigate how our chosen profession contributes to climate change.






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Brian D Westerberg (Prof)

MD, MHSc, FRCSC (Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery), Global Ambassador (ENT) – North America; President, Canadian Society of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery; Director, Branch for Global Surgical Care, University of British Columbia; Clinical Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada.

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