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Tackling the climate emergency with the BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit

The BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit is an exciting step forward in establishing low waste, low carbon health care across BC Cancer centres.
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​April 7 is World Health Day. Celebrated every year on this day, World Health Day highlights an area of priority concern for the World Health Organization (WHO).

This year's theme is "Our Planet, Our Health" to draw attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being. WHO estimates that environmental factors, including climate change, claim 13 million lives every year.

The time to act is now. "We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree C limit" that was agreed in Paris in 2015.                                                                                  – UN secretary general Antonio Guterres
"We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future."               – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chair Hoesung Lee

At BC Cancer, there is important work underway to address the climate emergency through the newly created BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit. Led by diagnostic radiologist Dr. Maura Brown, radiation oncologist Dr. Shilo Lefresne, and medical oncologist Dr. Caroline Mariano, the BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit is an exciting step forward in establishing low waste, low carbon health care across BC Cancer centres. The committee is supported by BC Cancer's senior leadership team with senior executive director of operations Kevin Hare as the representative.


Dr. Maura Brown, Dr. Shilo Lefresne, and Dr. Caroline Mariano.

We hear from Dr. Brown, Dr. Lefresne, and Dr. Mariano on why the BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit was formed and how this work will help tackle climate change.

Tell us about the BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit.

The BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit is a new BC Cancer clinician-led initiative to provide education and resources to engage and inspire clinicians to help establish low waste, low carbon health care throughout BC Cancer. We will work to promote new initiatives and support climate resilient sustainable health systems through knowledge-mobilization and networking.

This project started with informal conversations with our colleagues about the climate crisis and accompanying health crisis. It became apparent that others across the province had similar concerns and that many had ideas for improvement and / or a wish to learn and do more to reduce waste and mitigate emissions arising from the provision of health care.

We were fortunate to have support from senior clinical leadership to create a more formal entity – hence the BC Cancer Planetary Health unit was born!

What do you hope to achieve with the BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit?

We hope to be a repository of information for clinicians to learn about new sustainable health care methods applicable to their practices as they emerge locally and globally. Working alongside established programs such as GreenCare, we aim to support new initiatives where appropriate and assist BC Cancer's health care community in transition to low carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable provision of health services.

We are really excited about this opportunity to engage with BC Cancer clinical teams in climate solutions in our workplace, and are grateful for the support of senior clinical leadership. Providing health care accounts for up to 4.6 per cent of Canada's Greenhouse Gas emissions. As clinicians, our responsibility to our patients and communities necessitates urgent attention to reducing emissions and harmful pollution arising from health care services through reducing overuse, matching supply to demand, and ensuring resource stewardship.

What projects are you currently working on as part of the BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit?

We are currently working on a variety of projects, which include:

  • Eliminating the routine use of exam table paper in our outpatient clinics
  • Working with Diagnostic Imaging to lower the power use of CT scanners, and reduce emissions from waste heat in CT. Subsequent similar projects may include MRI and CT PET.
  • Collaborating with GreenCare to improve recycling and clinical waste management

To learn more about the BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit, please connect directly with Dr. Maura BrownDr. Shilo Lefresne, and Dr. Caroline Mariano.

 
 
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