Body's Healing System
Physical Environment Improves Healthcare Quality and Outcomes
Human beings love nature! There's no question about it -- when you look at the amount of time we spend as a species admiring sunsets, planting gardens, exchanging flowers, and taking long leisurely walks. But healthcare has become an indoor activity -- sequestered from nature's healing embrace.
There is a large and growing body of evidence over the past decade that demonstrate the role of the physical environment in achieving healthcare quality
and safety. A recent analysis of more than 600 primarily peer-reviewed studies found associations between the physical environment and patient
and staff outcomes in four areas:
- Reduced staff stress and fatigue and increased
effectiveness in delivering care
- Improved patient safety
- Reduced patient stress
and improved health outcomes
- Improved overall healthcare quality (Ulrich, 2004)
Access to views and natural light in healthcare facilities
important stress-reducing effects, as well as reduce pain and
of stay at the hospital.
Hospitals are complex systems in which it is difficult to isolate the
impacts of individual factors and suggest that design-based evidence parallels
evidence-based medicine for improving health care.
Green Healthcare Solutions
A green healthcare agenda that includes ecological
health on multiple scales -- individual, staff, facilities, and global impact -- can incorporate environmental initiatives such as reduced
resource use, and it can aim for improved patient outcomes.
A responsible green agenda does
not guarantee that recycled floor surfaces or less outgassing of chemicals from
products will result in better care or more rapid recovery, but
reinventing hospitals and transforming their design becomes a tool to improve
quality, safety, and experience. Green touches everything...food, cleansers, buildings, and even transportation choices.
Seniors are probably the most vocal and highest financial supporters of healthcare institutions. Seniors' own need for quality care creates some of that focus...but their concern for their communities, the desire to give back to their communities and their concern for following generations lead them to contribute time, talent, resources and a voice to healthcare policies.
Learning about green healthcare and sustinable communities can be a powerful tool to accomplish these altruistic goals. The information is available through new green healthcare associations, the Institute for Medicine, etc. Now, what's needed is for individuals with a seat at the table of local organizations to bring their concerns into the light of discussions.
To help shape a more sustainable future based on solid environmental support systems, not based on the manmade, pharmaceutical and toxic approaches to healthcare that has been developed over the past fifty years, but to look at healthcare as a system of people caring for one another in healthful environments, using healthful products and services...and taking that new approach to clean air and water, non-toxic solutions and reduced impact on the environment home with us.
That's our challenge today. Understanding how global systems affect our own immediate ability to breathe easily, keep our bodies free of pollutants, and thrive for the long term!
Editor, Carolyn Allen
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