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Jane Fonda pens open letter to hospitals after facing cancer twice: 'There are some big steps that need to be taken'

"Hospitals need to embrace ensuring a healthy environment with the same heroism they embrace curing cancer."

"Hospitals need to embrace ensuring a healthy environment with the same heroism they embrace curing cancer."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Actress Jane Fonda penned a letter in Time calling on the health sector to embrace more planet-friendly practices. 

What happened?

In an article for Time, Jane Fonda recounted her journey of overcoming cancer twice and asserted that the disease has become an epidemic in the U.S. Meanwhile, she said, cancer-causing chemicals from the dirty energy industry are being found more and more in our food and water supply, and in everyday household items.

Fonda also pointed out that America's four big healthcare pension funds — the Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, HCA Healthcare, and Ascension Health — invested more than $4.5 billion into polluting dirty energy companies, according to a report from Stand.earth

Meanwhile, the country's healthcare system is responsible for almost 9% of the country's planet-warming pollution, she said (which is similar to other estimates). 

Why is it important to green up the healthcare sector?

While the healthcare industry is still heavily invested in dirty energy, fossil-fuel-related air pollution caused more than 8 million deaths globally in 2018, according to a Harvard Center for Public Health study that Fonda cited. 

What's being done to green up the healthcare sector?

The medical industry has made progress before, according to Fonda, who spoke with a co-founder of the advocacy organization Health Care Without Harm. For instance, when it was learned that medical waste incinerators were a leading contributor to cancer-causing pollution in the country, thousands of these incinerators were closed, and hospitals veered toward waste reduction and recycling along with safer waste treatment technologies.

Health Care Without Harm has also pushed hospitals to strive for net zero emissions

However, "There are some big steps that need to be taken," Fonda wrote. "Hospitals need to embrace ensuring a healthy environment with the same heroism they embrace curing cancer."

She advocates for hospitals to turn to renewable energy, buy supplies and food locally, electrify vehicle fleets, move to more telemedicine, eliminate polluting anesthetic gases, and reduce single-use plastics, among other things.

Reducing the amount of meat hospitals serve would also make a big impact.

One team of scientists claims that cutting our consumption of animal food products by half could nearly halt the net reduction of forest and natural land and reduce heat-trapping air pollution by 31% compared to 2020 levels. 

Some healthcare professionals are looking at the concept of food as medicine to help treat cancer and other diseases. For instance, NYC Health + Hospitals is making plant-based foods its primary menu option for inpatients, saying that a plant-based diet helps fight off disease — it's a move that could improve the health of patients and the planet.

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