How do you measure a WELL building? Our Preliminary Audit

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We’ve completed our preliminary audit on the way to full WELL (@WELLCertified) certification.

The WELL Building Standard® is an evidence-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring the performance of building features that impact health and well-being.

The audit includes testing of air, sound, light, and water, performed by an objective third party, in this case Delos (@DelosLiving). As most things I have encountered as a physician in the total health space, I learned that there is much more in our environments that can be measured and managed that we are taught about in medical school.

Fortunately though, there are fellow professionals in health, who are working along side us to make all of our work more impactful. You can see from the photos that the work involves applied science and the judgement to understand what is the best environment for the task. Many of the improvements to be made are not costly, all that’s needed is to know what’s needed.

The Preliminary Audit is a stage in the process to full WELL Building Certification. The Center for Total Health is the perfect place, on many levels, to go through the process, with many experts here to help us!

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Left to Right: Brendan O’Grady, WELL AP, Delos; Madeline Evans, WELL AP, LEED Green Associate, Delos; Kathy Gerwig, vice president of Employee Safety, Health and Wellness, and Environmental Stewardship Officer at Kaiser Permanente, and Carol Corr, AIA, LEED GA, EDAC, design program manager, National Planning and Design, National Facilities Services, Kaiser Permanente

Health Care as Part of the Climate Problem and Part of the Climate Solution

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Hospitals and health systems, particularly in the most industrialized settings, make a significant impact on the climate. In the United States alone, health care contributes 8 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Globally, communities are already suffering health impacts of climate change as a result of extreme weather, disruption of food and water supplies, wildfires, air pollution, mass migration and changes in prevalence of diseases — such as those borne by insects — all resulting in health consequences including asthma, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems, among many others.

Read more of this article here

 

Designing a Better, Greener, More Sustainable Hospital

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Interview with Robin Guenther, Architect and Expert in Sustainable Design

Robin Guenther doesn’t just design pretty hospitals. She designs spaces that resonate health and well-being from the ground up.

As the sustainable healthcare leader at global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will, Guenther understands that every aspect of health and sustainability needs to be considered in the design of hospitals and healing spaces. It’s not enough to build hospitals with the latest healthcare technology. Rather, we need to be considering all aspects of a hospital’s building design and how that design lends itself to healing people and healing the planet.

“There’s something ironic about physicians, nurses and caregivers working to keep people alive and healthy in buildings that feel dead and that are built of materials that contribute to disease,” explains Guenther. “We need to build healthcare facilities that inspire health, that are built with healthy materials, that use as little energy as possible and that connect us with our living environments.”

Guenther was one of the keynote speakers at the CleanMed conference in Portland, Ore. this year. The conference is held annually for hospital and business leaders working at the forefront of sustainable healthcare.

In this video, Guenther shares some of her insights on the current trends in sustainable healthcare design – from building low-energy and net-zero hospitals to designing for the impacts of a changing climate.

Green is the New Gold Standard for Total Health

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Solar Panels, Kaiser Permanante Santa Clara

Solar Panels, Kaiser Permanante Santa Clara

Environmental health and the health of individuals and communities are strongly connected. As a health care provider, Kaiser Permanente feels a special responsibility to address the impacts of climate change on health and to reduce pollutants that can lead to disease. It’s all part of how we look at the total health of people and communities, considering all of the factors that influence their health outside of the doctor’s office.

That definition for total health became richer with the recent announcement that Kaiser Permanente was joining the august ranks of Apple, Google, and other large, environmentally-conscious companies that choose to be leaders in the green energy arena.

KP_SustainableEnergy_BrochureKaiser Permanente announced last month that we completed several agreements to purchase enough renewable energy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent nationwide by the beginning of 2017. These agreements mean that about 50 percent of the electricity used at our facilities in California will come from renewable energy sources.

The health care sector is poised, perhaps better than most, to plug in to the conversation about the health impacts of climate change and help direct the next stages of climate action. The health care industry carries a considerable environmental footprint, and Kaiser Permanente is partnering with Health Care Without Harm and the Business Renewables Center, launched recently by nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, to help not only the health care industry, but the entire U.S. business sector, move toward more abundant clean energy solutions.

“Climate change isn’t a distant threat,” said Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente’s environmental stewardship
officer. “The health impacts of a changing climate can be felt today in the form of increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, spread of infectious diseases, heat stress, and injuries from severe weather events. By addressing climate change for the future, we are improving the health of communities today.”

Purchasing renewable energy supports KP’s core mission of total health, and it also makes good business sense.

“We expect this energy purchase to be cost neutral over the term of the contracts,” said Ramé Hemstreet, Kaiser Permanente’s chief energy officer. “By locking in rates, we can better forecast energy costs, and by using diverse fuel sources, we can protect our business from escalating and volatile energy prices. That’s great news for our members.”

So, the next time you see or visit a Kaiser Permanente facility, rest assured that green energy is making a major contribution to powering our facilities, addressing climate change and improving the total health of our members and communities.

More details of this announcement are captured in the infographic, video, and press release on Kaiser Permanente’s Share website.

What Exactly IS the Trail Modeling & Assessment Platform, and Why Do We Care?

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Our guest blogger today is Tracy Hadden Loh with the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Tracy Hadden Loh (right) and colleague with the pedestrian counter outside the CTH.

Tracy Hadden Loh (right) and colleague with the pedestrian counter outside the CTH. The counter was installed on one of the coldest days of this winter (high of 10 degrees!).

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a national membership-based nonprofit dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. We serve as the national voice for more than 160,000 members/supporters, 30,000 miles of rail and multi-use trails, and over 8,000 miles of potential trail. When RTC was founded in 1986, there were less than 250 miles of rail-trail in the United States. Today, there are more than 21,000 miles of trails of serving some tens of millions of people each year.

However, that mileage number is about all we’ve measured with any precision. We don’t actually know how many people in the United States use trails each year. We know that these miles of trail are a great way to create healthier places and healthier people – for example, a recent meta-analysis of published research on the cost-effectiveness of population-level interventions to promote physical activity found that a rail-trail was the #1 most effective intervention. On the basis of similar evidence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize trails as a proven strategy that works to increase physical activity, reduce risk of chronic disease, and improve mental health and wellness. So we know we’re on to something good – but how good? When it comes time to make room for trails in the budget, can we show a dollars-and-cents return on investment?

To that end, RTC has launched the Trail Modeling and Assessment Platform (T-MAP), a three-year research initiative to measure, model, and value trail use in the United States. The first phase of this project involves establishing a national network of trail traffic monitoring stations, so that we can continuously measure trail use across the different climactic zones of the US. We’ll use these data to develop two tools: a trail use demand forecasting model to estimate traffic volumes on existing trails or predict volumes on future trails; and a health impact assessment calculator for estimating health care costs avoided due to physical activity on trails.

Taken literally, RTC’s focus on “health” means that there are times when our mission overlaps with that of hospitals and health care systems. Under the Affordable Care Act, non-profit hospitals are now faced with a requirement to assess the health needs of the community, and based on that assessment draw up an implementation plan. We see that as an opportunity to make the case for trails!

Our partners at the Kaiser Permanante Center for Total Health already get it. Located in the heart of downtown Washington, DC right on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the CTH is helping us implement T-MAP through the installation and maintenance of their very own trail traffic monitoring station, contributing critical data to the project from a unique trail location that is co-located with an urban sidewalk, and dominated by pedestrians. As they learn about how the trail relates to their facility, we’re learning about the trail and collecting the data necessary to accurately estimate the true magnitude of trail use in the United States, and what it’s worth.

 

Data from the CTH Pedestrian Counter

Data from the CTH Pedestrian Counter | February 15, 2015

A Perfect Storm Brings Health Care, Government and Business Together for a More Sustainable DC

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There was a “perfect storm” of activity in the nation’s capital last week, and if you weren’t tuned in closely, you might have missed it.

The Sustainable DC pledge awaits formal signatures from health care representatives signifying their commitment.

The Sustainable DC pledge awaits formal signatures from health care representatives signifying their commitment.

This perfect storm was not another Superstorm Sandy. In fact, one might argue that one of the aims of this perfect storm was to build resilience to any such storms in the future. This perfect storm brought together representatives from 21 different health care organizations and local government officials at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health pledging to make the District of Columbia “the most sustainable city in the United States.

So what makes this newsworthy? The health care sector is certainly no stranger to coming together under the umbrella of sustainability. Over the past 20 years, the sector has been leading its very own “green revolution,” with hospitals and health care systems of all sizes looking hard at their contributions to environmental waste and pollution and what they must do to flip the equation and support more environmentally sustainable health care approaches.

What makes the Sustainable DC effort special is its focus on a single urban community, on bringing together leaders from health care, government and business sectors in a particular place, concentrating their efforts across governance, jobs and the economy, equity and diversity with the goal that, “By 2032, the District will be the healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the nation by using sustainability solutions to address core challenges.” The Sustainable DC plan outlines specific goals, targets and actions to get there. And the plan makes it clear that health care organizations to be at the table to bring the mighty vision to fruition.

Hospitals in America contribute an estimated 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, generate more than 2 million tons of waste each year and draw upon natural resources like water in ways that often counteract efforts to support the health of individuals and communities. Recognizing this paradox, many health care leaders have joined efforts like the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, Practice Greenhealth and Health Care Without Harm to green their own health care systems.

Kathy Gerwig, chief environmental stewardship officer for Kaiser Permanente, chronicles this green movement in her recent book, Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet. In the book, she notes the reasoning behind why health care organizations would move to join forces with each other and government to move the needle on environmental health:

“In the final analysis, most health systems engage with their communities not because they are incented to do so by federal and state tax law, but because they are mission-driven organizations that care deeply about the health of their communities. They know that individuals’ health depends on the health of the communities in which they live, work, learn, and play, and that the health of those communities depends on a healthy environment—health-sustaining air, water, soil, and all natural resources. They strongly believe, on the basis of compelling evidence, that when they invest their dollars and their expertise in promoting healthy social and physical environments, they are benefiting their communities and contributing to the health of everyone.”

That mission-driven energy was palpable on October 23, 2014. The energy in the room was exciting, collegial and activated. There was much talk of the sustainability progress that is already converging in DC – from an extensive array of green roofs and LEED-certified buildings across DC to the build out of the Metropolitan Trail to provide safe, physical activity and active transportation options. And there was a clear conviction expressed by health care leaders who were gathered, as well as the Mayor’s office, that this coming together for a more sustainable DC was just setting the stage for a convergence of efforts that would echo progress even beyond DC limits.

We can only hope that, as DC leads the way in sustainability, so goes the rest of the country.

Representatives from DC area health care organizations gather with Mayor Vincent Gray at the Center for Total Health after the signing of the Sustainable DC pledge.

Representatives from DC area health care organizations gather with Mayor Vincent Gray at the Center for Total Health after the signing of the Sustainable DC pledge.

Kaiser Permanente applauds the Sustainable DC plan, and we are pleased to be among the pledge-signers and the hosts for this momentous step forward. We have pledged our support and look forward to working with fellow health care system leaders to advance the goals outlined in the plan.

Kaiser Permanente physician director for the Center for Total Health, Ted Eytan, along with Keith Montgomery, executive director for the Center, nicely set the stage for the day’s event in their welcome remarks. Ted offered his follow-up reflections in a blog post that summarized the vision for total health that everyone in the room intuitively if not concretely echoed that morning. He writes, the Sustainable DC plan is “not just about the environment, it’s about everything that goes into creating an ‘equitable, prosperous, society.’”

You can watch the full signing ceremony in this video.

What Does Environmentally Sustainable Health Care Look Like?

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It’s all you’ve ever wanted to know about the greening of health care!  In our earlier post, we told you about the recent publication of the book, Greening Health Care, by Kaiser Permanente’s Kathy Gerwig.  Today, we begin a series of excerpts from the book — and we start with an introduction and overview from the preface.

The very nature of health care is changing. Health care reform, clinical innovations, electronic medical records, social connectivity, technological advances, baby boomers’ expectations about quality of life, demands for price to align with value, and ways the environment contributes to disease are some of the factors behind the changes. These changes offer profound, new opportunities to address environmental issues across the health care sector and beyond.image

In this changing landscape, what does environmentally sustainable health care look like? Let’s take an imaginary visit to a hospital for a routine doctor visit. Approaching the medical facility, the first thing we notice is that the building is smaller than we expected. There is a convenient transit stop at the front entrance. And the parking lot pavement allows rainwater to filter through to be cleaned and returned to the aquifer. We notice that instead of lawns there are native plantings that minimize water and pesticide use.

There is a garden path that takes us by a stream that was brought back to life from where it was hidden in a concrete culvert decades ago. We enjoy the birds that have rediscovered this tranquil place. You notice a labyrinth and take a meditative respite.

Once inside, we’re walking on nonvinyl, nonpolluting material on the carpets and floors, and we notice how much natural light floods into the lobby and hallways from specially designed window glass, shades, and blinds that allow sunlight in while minimizing afternoon heat. The walls are painted in soothing colors and patterns that mimic the adjoining landscape. The energy efficient lighting fixtures glow with a pleasing hue. You see a plaque on the wall indicating that the building is carbon-neutral.

In the bathroom, the toilets and sinks are water-conserving, and the soap does not contain harmful anti-bacterial agents. The paper towels are made from 100 percent recycled, post- consumer waste, and the used towels go into a compost container. In the waiting room, the fabric on the chairs was selected to avoid harmful chemicals that can cause adverse health effects.

In the exam room, your temperature and blood pressure are taken with mercury-free devices. You notice the purple exam gloves used by the clinical staff. These are latex-safe for worker and patient safety, and they are environmentally preferable.

If you are here for a biopsy, your doctor will use a rigid endoscope (for minimally invasive surgery) which is steam sterilized to avoid the use of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and to staff. Read More

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Earth Day

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Join the Center for Total Health and the entire Kaiser Permanente family today (and every day) in working to improve the health of our planet. Whether through large-scale efforts, like our partnership with the Alliance for Climate Education, or through individual decisions to recycle or create less waste, there are things each of us can do. For ideas, check out this list from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of course, we particularly like the suggestion to use active modes of transportation!

Happy Earth Day!

 

Healthy Buildings: Reducing Use of Harmful Chemicals

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Yesterday at the Center for Total Health, the U.S. Green Building Council  welcomed Arlene Blum, Ph.D., author, mountaineer, and founder of the Green Science Policy Institute, for a discussion of “Six Classes” – chemicals of concern, the science and policy of flame retardant chemicals, and the national health impacts of California’s changing flammability standards.

Arlene Blum, Ph.D.

Arlene Blum, Ph.D.

Rather than addressing the tens of thousands of chemicals on the market one at a time, the SixClasses.org project educates decision makers in manufacturing, retail and government —  as well as consumers — about the “Six Classes” that contain many of the harmful chemicals in consumer products and building materials. The class approach can prevent regrettable substitutions, where a toxic chemical is removed and replaced by a chemical cousin with similar harmful properties.

Learn more at http://www.sixclasses.org/.

 

 

CDC Foundation Board of Directors Welcomes New Member Raymond Baxter

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raymondBaxterThere’s a new face on the CDC Foundation Board of Directors with the election of Raymond J. Baxter, PhD, senior vice president for community benefit, research and health policy for Kaiser Permanente.

The CDC Foundation focuses its work on building partnerships between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and corporations, foundations and individuals that, in turn, support the CDC’s 24/7 work to fight threats to health and safety.  

Baxter, who has a distinguished career in public health, has long been recognized as a leader in the space.  In 2006, he was the recipient of the 2006 CDC Foundation Hero Award in recognition for addressing the health consequences of Hurricane Katrina, as well as for his longstanding commitment to improving the health of communities.  In 2001, U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health honored Baxter’s efforts working at the San Francisco Department of Public Health during the AIDS epidemic.

Today, Baxter leads the work that fulfills Kaiser Permanente’s social mission, which includes care and coverage for low-income people, community health initiatives, health equity and environmental stewardship.  He also leads the health organization’s efforts in research and health policy.

In a recent interview with the CDC Foundation, when asked about the source of his passion for improving the health of communities, Baxter points out, “the health of communities is a matter of social justice that literally affects everyone’s health and quality of life….It’s about equity.” 

He goes on to note that his mission-driven work at Kaiser Permanente means addressing health needs across the board, “from individuals and families to homes, schools, worksites, neighborhoods, and the broader society.”

You can read Baxter’s Q&A in its entirety on the CDC Foundation blog.