In 2008, Mayor Thomas M. Menino convened a summit of Boston’s leading healthcare, academic, policy, and community leaders to address primary care access in the city. As a result of that summit, Mayor Menino formed the Mayor’s Task Force on Improving Access to Primary Care in Boston, which created a set of recommendations that have served as a roadmap to increase access, improve quality, and integrate public health efforts with the primary care system.
Since 2010, the Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care has recognized Boston-based organizations that are transforming the primary care landscape and improving our city’s health in three settings – Healthcare, the Community, and the Workplace. As Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s tenure concludes, we catch up with past winners to learn not only what the Mayoral Prize has meant to them, but also to learn what further achievements they have made since accepting the award.
Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is an international coalition of over 450 organizations represented in over 50 countries with the mission of making health care practices more environmentally sustainable and less harmful to human health. Their network of partners include professional health organizations, supply chain companies, government agencies, and non-profits across the globe. Locally, they have worked closely with Steward Healthcare, Boston Medical Center, Partners HealthCare, and Children’s Hospital of Boston, as well public sector agencies, including the MA Department of Public Health and the Green Ribbon Commission on climate change mitigation. For over 16 years, HCWH has made astounding accomplishments in developing best practices for organizations to improve their environmental impact while still cutting costs.
Some of their greatest feats have been eliminating medical devices containing mercury from the market and spearheading the movement for safer medical waste disposal. HCWH is responsible for co-developing the Green Guide to Healthcare (GGHC), the first green building framework to incorporate environmental health as a major factor in building design. The tool was eventually adopted by the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a guide for healthcare site constructions and eventually became the foundation for the LEED standards for Healthcare.
Last year, HCWH was recognized as a Mayoral Prize Winner for Innovations in a Community Setting for the multitude of work they’ve accomplished in implementing best practices and policies in healthcare institutions for a healthier environment. One of their more impressive efforts was the Healthy Food in Healthcare Program, which enabled all major Boston hospitals to revamp their food system in providing healthier choices that align with the most recent dietary guidelines. HCWH has worked closely with several major Boston hospitals recently to shift its food offerings, focusing less on sugar-sweetened beverages and more on healthier food alternatives for patients, staff and visitors. The program not only makes healthier meals more accessible, but also reduces the usage of non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuel that cause air pollution and exacerbates respiratory problems With hospitals using 8% of the nation’s energy, efforts to promote renewable energy has a profound and lasting impact on the overall environment.
Having won the Mayoral Prize just a year ago, HCWH has made a substantial amount of progress, bringing their innovation to the national level. Their collaboration with Partners HealthCare and 12 other health systems helped HCWH launch the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI). Under HHI, hospitals pledge to achieve three healthy food and beverage goals, including a 20% reduction in the amount of meat served and a 15% increase in local and sustainable foods served after three years. To date, over 800 hospitals nationwide are enrolled in HHI and are committed to an environmentally friendly food system.
HCWH envisions that healthcare institutions across America will invest in community agriculture and integrate it in their food systems, where physicians can prescribe fruits and vegetables to address diet-related conditions, and hopes that changing food procurement practices in the healthcare sector can lead to a more sustainable global food system. With initiatives that foster more sustainable systems and practices that help protect the environment, adopting these changes can in turn protect the overall health of individuals, families, and communities.
To learn about all our past Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care winners, please click here.