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Invited Commentary
Public Health
August 3, 2018

How Healthy Is Health Care?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 2Department of Anesthesiology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1(4):e181000. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.1000

The health care industry is uniquely charged with tending to human health and wellness and has been called on to help lead the transition to a sustainable world.1,2 Yet, modern health care itself is a leading emitter of environmental pollutants, responsible for 10% of national greenhouse gas emissions and 9% of criteria air pollutants in the United States alone.3 In the United States, health care pollution causes indirect harm to public health, commensurate with the 44 000 to 98 000 deaths from preventable medical errors first reported by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in To Err Is Human 2 decades ago.3,4 That landmark IOM article sparked a patient safety movement, but the health care industry lags behind in its efforts to reduce harm caused by its own pollution footprint.

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