Public health is the core of medicine. It entails that we, as health care professionals, need to ensure public goods are delivered in a safe and sustainable way. Public procurement is a key entry point for promoting more sustainable production and consumption patterns, and a major contributor to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. That is why sustainable health procurement is a priority in the global health sector.
The public are exposed to serious environmental and health risks during the implementation of health programs. These risks range from improper health care waste management to exposure of health care professionals to persistent organic pollutants. They need to be addressed systematically at all levels.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as an important public procurer in the global health market, has a particular responsibility to follow the international conventions and principles. Therefore, for the first time, the organization monitors the compliance with international conventions of its own procurement through an innovative guidance tool: “Healthcare Procurement and Compliance with International Environmental Conventions on Chemicals”.
There are five global conventions that aim to protect human health and environment from hazardous substances:
Developed with generous support from the Skoll Foundation and the United Nations Foundation, and in collaboration with Health Care Without Harm, the guidance tool presents a practical guide aimed at assisting the procurement practitioners to monitor compliance of healthcare procurement using the relevant international conventions for environmental safeguarding.
This is, without a doubt, a very important step towards greening of UNDP health care procurement practices and a major contribution to the maxim of medical ethics, primum non nocere (first do no harm).
We are proud to have supported the UNDP and Skoll awardee Health Care Without Harm in their collaboration to encourage environmentally sustainable health care procurement practices within the UN system and are excited to help launch their sustainable procurement guide. Given the scale of the UN system’s healthcare purchasing (US$3.4B annually), this guide for procurement practitioners has significant potential to protect health care workers, patients, communities, and the environment. The UNDP and HCWH’s partnership is a great example of how collaboration with key systems actors can increase the reach of social entrepreneurs’ work.