Health Care

Argentina Ratifies the Minamata Convention, the International Agreement to Eliminate Mercury

Buenos Aires, 27 April 2017 – The Argentinian Congress approved the ratification of the Minamata Convention to eliminate the use of mercury by 2020. In doing so, Argentina became the 43rd country to ratify the agreement. 128 countries in total signed the Minamata Convention at a diplomatic meeting that took place on October 10th, 2013 in Kumamoto, in the south of Japan.

“The ratification of the Minamata Convention is excellent news for the environment and human health", said Verónica Odriozola, executive director of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) – Latin America. HCWH worked for 15 years to advocate for the elimination of mercuyr and collaborated with the health sector to take the lead by replacing medical devices such as thermometers and blood pressure measuring devices that contain this toxic metal. "Over the years, health professionals have committed to eliminating mercury-containing products as the only way to avoid its contaminating presence in the environment and on human beings throughout the world”, explained Odriozola.

Mercury is a global pollutant that affects human and environmental health. There are numerous sources of mercury emissions to the environment, including the health care sector through the breaking of thermometers and blood pressure measuring devices containing this metal.

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May 11, 2017Global

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Health Organization Leaders Launch Global Campaign on Air Pollution

Unmask My City (UMC) is global initiative by doctors, nurses, public health practitioners, and allied healthcare professionals dedicated to improving air quality and reducing emissions in our cities.

May 2nd -- Launching today on World Asthma Day, Unmask My City, a global initiative in 10 cities on five continents, aims to promote practical solutions and create tangible policy changes that drive a clear, downward global trend in urban air pollution by 2030.

This will result in significant reductions in illnesses and deaths as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Through Unmask My City, health professionals are becoming a visible force supporting or driving healthy air campaigns in their countries protecting the environment and health of people.

Health Care Without Harm’s partners in India, Brazil, and South Africa have joined Unmask My City to call for locally-tailored solutions, such as establishing health protections in marginalized communities in Chennai, India; ensuring that health is considered in the permitting process for power plants in Emalahleni, South Africa; and mobilizing health care organizations to engage in the air pollution debate in São Paulo, Brazil. 

This global initiative is coordinated by the Global Climate and Health Alliance together with the Health and Environment Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, the US Climate and Health Alliance, and the UK Health Alliance for Climate Change.

Air pollution is responsible for one in nine deaths worldwide, and touches everyone -- 92% of the human race live in places that do not meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines (1). This growing cloud of pollution has catapulted air pollution towards the top of the list of avoidable risk factors for ill health, with an unacceptably high burden of disease.

“From a public health perspective, wearing masks to protect against air pollution is a solution of last resort -- our goal should be prevention first and foremost,” said Jennifer Wang, Healthy Energy Initiative Coordinator for Health Care Without Harm. “To address the root causes of air pollution, we need decisive action from policymakers and cooperation across sectors, including the health sector. By working together to tackle air pollution, we're saving lives, saving money, and preserving our planet.”

Health care organizations in Brazil are increasingly taking on leadership in combating climate change among other essential environmental public health issues. “UMC campaign is mobilizing Brazilian members of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network for the improvement of air quality in the city of São Paulo,” said Vital Ribeiro from HCWH’s strategic partner, Projeto Hospitais Saudáveis. “We believe the health sector can make a real difference in the fight against air pollution and climate change, and contribute to significantly improve the quality of life of 12 million people living in São Paulo.” 

“Air pollution is robbing citizens of their right to a healthy life. It is imperative that the public health community take charge and engage with the government to frame suitable policies to protect public health and environment,” Shweta Narayan, Healthy Energy Initiative – India.

These are just some examples of locally-defined approaches from Health Care Without Harm’s partners involved in Unmask My City. As part of this global health community, we’re incredibly energized and committed to continue to promote solutions to air pollution, to protect our health and our climate.

Fact Sheet and Quote Cards


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All photos and quote cards belong to Unmask My City


1. World Health Organization. WHO | WHO releases country estimates on air pollution exposure and health impact [Internet]. WHO. 2016 [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available here.

May 2, 2017Global

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Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Reaches New Membership Milestone- 25,000 Hospitals and Health Centers

The first quarter of 2017 has been an exciting and productive one for Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH). In the first four months of the year we have surpassed our membership target for the entire year, and an important milestone in the growth of the network: GGHH members representing over 25,000 hospitals and health centers around the globe.

As of today, GGHH has 797 members in 47 countries on 6 continents who represent the interests of over 25,600 hospitals and health centers.

While hospitals and health systems from every continent continue to join GGHH, much of the recent growth comes from a new partnership with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the creation of the Health and Environment Leadership Platform (HELP).

Launched in February of this year, HELP engages hospitals, health centers, and health systems around India to form a concerted voice for environmental sustainability in the sector and demonstrate leadership to address the impacts of environmental risk factors for ill health. Nineteen institutions, representing over 3,000 hospitals and health centers are participating in HELP, all of whom make up the newest cohort of GGHH members.

The continued growth of GGHH signifies both the rising interest of hospitals, health systems, and health organization around the globe in reducing their impacts on environmental and public health, as well as the collective power and voice of the health sector to act as a catalyst for transformative change. We are thrilled to be working with PHFI and all of our other members as we move forward in this work together.

We welcome our new members from India!

  • PSG -Institute of Medical Sciences & Research (representing 1 hospital)
  • Environment and Child Health of CIAP
  • National Neonatology Forum of India (NNF)
  • National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH)
  • Association of Healthcare Providers (AHPI)
  • National Board of Examination (NBE)
  • Delhi Medical Association
  • Bhagat Hospitals
  • Council on Energy Environment and Water (CEEW)
  • Cancer Institute Chennai (representing 1 hospital)
  • Associations of National Board Accredited Institutions (ANBAI)
  • Lal Path labs limited
  • Consortium of Accredited Healthcare Organizations (CAHO)
  • Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) (representing 2,925 health centers)
  • Aravind Eye Care System (representing 10 hospitals)
  • Apollo Hospitals (representing 40 hospitals)
  • NATHEALTH (representing 21 hospitals and 12 health centers)
  • Indian Academy of Pediatrics
  • Global Association of Physicians of India Origin (GAPIO)

See our full members list here.

Learn how GGHH members are creating climate smart health care

GGHH members are using their innovation, ingenuity, and investments to transform the health sector and foster a healthy future for people and the planet. To learn about the accomplishments and successful projects, check out our Case Studies library.

May 1, 2017Global

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Introducing Mariano De Donatis, HCWH’s New International Managing Director

HCWH is pleased to introduce Mariano De Donatis as our new International Managing Director. With over twelve years of experience working with civil society networks and coalitions to influence change at the national and global level, Mariano brings a tremendous amount of experience to help build and strengthen collaboration, management and governance for HCWH.

Prior to joining HCWH, Mariano worked as Oxfam´s Global Programme Manager, leading its advocacy work in BRICSAMIT countries - Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, South Africa, Mexico and Turkey. He led multi-issues campaigns, managed a flagship program to empower civil society networks and supported the Oxfam confederation's development in the Global South.

Immediately before, Mariano worked at the Global Call to Action Against Poverty coalition (GCAP) and at CIVICUS Alliance in various positions. As CIVICUS’s Global Convening & Outreach Manager, Mariano led the development and implementation of an organizational and network development plan. He led a team that strengthened the secretariat capacity while also strengthening CIVICUS, which has more than 900 members in 140 countries, as global network.

Mariano was born in Argentina and he has lived in five countries across four continents. He has a masters degree in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a major in Economics from the University of Buenos Aires. As an activist Mariano has been involved in several regional and global initiatives to support active citizenship and sustainable development, participating in informal networks that use an innovative approach to civic engagement and new social movements.

Mariano currently lives in Mexico City but will soon be based out of HCWH’s Latin America Regional office in Buenos Aires.

April 25, 2017Global

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Australia | Role of Environmental Health in the World Congress on Public Health

Protecting our environment and responding to the health impacts of climate change were among the top issues discussed during the 15th World Congress on Public Health. The event took place from April 3-7 in Melbourne, Australia. Held every 2-4 years by the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), the Congress serves as an international forum for the exchange of knowledge and experiences on key public health issues with the aim of contributing towards protecting and promoting public health at national and global levels.

Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), HCWH’s strategic partner in Australia, and CAHA member Grace Fitzgerald ran a workshop on “The role of public health professionals in advocating for policy change: a case study”. This session presented climate change framed as a health issue, and explored the ways in which health professionals can act to use their influence. Click here for Armstrong and Fitzgerald's workshop slides.

In addition, Fiona Armstrong and Carol Behne, Sustainable Healthcare Project Officer at CAHA, participated in a session on Climate Change. Armstrong presented on CAHA's campaign for a National strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing, including progress to date and future plans. Behne discussed about the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) program and its objective to protect public health through environmental sustainability in healthcare. They shared cases studies from GGHH members that demonstrated the mitigation, adaptation and leadership efforts possible from the health sector in addressing climate change. Click here to see Armstrong’s presentation and click here for Behne’s presentation.

"Rubbish is a resource, not waste"

As part of the Congress, Western Health, a member of GGHH, hosted a field trip demonstrating their work to improve environmental sustainability and protect public health. Delegates from Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and England participated in the visit to learn how Western Health is planning to achieve their strategic aim of “being socially responsible and using resources sustainably.” They toured the facility and its features such as their waste/recycling segregation areas, organic waste dehydrator, and e-water taps (electrolyzed water for cleaning/sanitizing without chemicals).

Catherine O’Shea, Sustainability Officer at Western Health, left the group with a powerful message to take home: "Rubbish is a resource, not waste".For more information on this event, click here.

Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Global Health

During the event, Dr. Peter Orris, Senior Adviser to HCWH, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Global Health in recognition of Dr. Orris’ work in the context of the WFPHA’s Environmental Health Working Group and in campaigns to improve environmental health. For more information on the award Dr. Orris received, click here.

The Lancet Planetary Health

During the Congress, the Lancet launched a new journal on Planetary Health, which will join The Lancet Public Health and The Lancet Global Health. It will provide a third pillar in an open-access program covering the interplay between health and the determinants of health in our living and physical world.

“A new reality is emerging. Planetary health is an exciting opportunity for finding alternative solutions for a better and more resilient future. The Lancet Planetary Health invites you to submit the best (and still missing) scientific evidence that can strengthen the case for policy action and can help write a new narrative for planetary health”, says the report. To download it, click here.

April 17, 2017Global

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Blog | Do Hospitals Do More Harm than Good?

Blog post written by Luqman Yesufu; GGHH Campaign Manager, Membership Outreach and Engagement in Africa; groundWork

Posted on: groundWork

The members of the Global Green and Healthy Hospital network aim to ensure that they do no harm while providing health services.

The prevention of illness, injury and disease is an essential part of healthcare. We engage in healthy life style habits such as exercising and not smoking to prevent obesity and lung cancer. We vaccinate our children regularly to stimulate immunity and thus protect them from disease. We educate young boys and girls in order to promote safe sex and thus prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. On the basis of this, there is remarkable evidence to show that prevention works better than treating a disease. If this is the case, the health care sector must lead by example by engaging in more sustainable practices that are aimed at preventing disease and promoting good health without compromising patient care and safety.

Hospitals produce enormous amounts of waste, but only a small portion (about 15%) is actually infectious or poses high risk; 75% – 85% of the waste is categorized as normal municipal waste which has low risk to ill health, except of course if it is burnt. This should be music to the ears of hospital administrators, especially as the bulk of the money spent on treatment and disposal of medical waste is actually spent on the infectious waste. So, since you produce less, you should spend less. Unfortunately this is not the case, as hospitals in South Africa pay over the odds to get their waste treated and disposed of. There are two main reason for this: poor leadership and poor waste management practices.

The acceptable form of treatment and disposal of medical waste in South Africa is to burn it using incineration. This often leads to toxic fumes being released into the atmosphere at concentrations that are harmful to health when inhaled. Often, the incinerators cannot deal with the amount of waste coming, so it is turned away at the gate if it cannot be burnt immediately. Which is how it ends up in a residential area – as in the case of Roodepoort – or on the beach front – as in the case of Durban. The recent discovery of tons of medical waste, packed floor to ceiling in a suburban west Johannesburg house, as well as the tons of medical waste spread across Durban beach last year, has drawn attention to the problems experienced in the disposal of this waste stream. Hospital management needs to take up leadership responsibilities to ensure that waste is properly segregated to ensure that what gets to the incinerator is actually very little.

Those charged with the responsibility to ensure hospital waste is managed properly are the health care waste officers. They are not only trained in managing hospital waste but they are even mentioned in the Health Care Waste Regulations as ”A health officer who is registered and qualified as an environmental health practitioner”. This group of professionals needs to be supported by hospital management so that they can do exactly what they are trained to do, which is ensure that health care waste is managed in such a way that it does not cause harm to the patient, staff and the community.

The idea of prevention of injury and disease is a key reason why health care waste management should be a priority in health care institutions. We don’t want to cause harm to a person in the name of providing care. In fact, it should be considered a violation of a person’s human right and a crime against humanity if the public is still exposed to infectious or hazardous waste from hospitals. Hospital management therefore needs to take more responsible and sustainable actions in dealing with their waste and the people responsible should be given the proper mandate and support to do this.

Just some of the Global Green and Health Hospitals heroes doing amazing work to make their health facilities sustainable, gathered in Pietermaritzburg during groundWork’s community planning meeting. Credit: groundWork

We recently sat down with *Dineo to discuss some of the issues and challenges faced by health facilitators. This is what was discussed:

Luqman: What is your role as a health facilitator and what are the challenges that limit you from adequately doing your job.

Dineo: My role is to develop waste management policies, train the staff and advise management on how to improve our waste systems, better the environment and protect the public. I also do inspections to find out about the hazardous tools we use and I develop corrective action plans. The challenges I face include staff. I was just recently employed and I have no staff to train. If I want to implement a recycling project, I can have all the ideas, identify proper disposal areas and find boxes, but there’s no one here to actually do the proper separation and disposal. I feel there is also lack of support from management. Maybe it’s because they don’t really understand my role, the post is fairly new, maybe it wasn’t introduced to them properly. You find that your immediate supervisor is supporting you, but when you get to finance managers or CEOs, your plans get turned down. They feel support components are not that important.

Luqman: How do you overcome these challenges?

Dineo: Trying to get through to management is very difficult. You can only write reports, invite them to meetings and try to communicate with them, but changing their minds is up to them. I just keep writing to them, expressing the challenges that I am facing and recommending that they give me a team to work with. When the feedback is negative, everything comes to a standstill. At some point, you have to go out yourself, because you see that your duties aren’t being carried out. I end up going out to the garden services people, who are contractors and not directly employed by the facility. I ask them to do collections for me. I give them small incentives for this work, like buying them cool drinks or cigarettes. Clinical orderlies are supposed to be doing this job in the interim: this was the decision taken by management. But they don’t see waste management and collection as their duty. So they feel like they are doing it as a favour to me. If one person doesn’t feel like collecting or transporting the waste that day, they don’t do it.

Luqman: Why is it problematic for the garden services people to be doing this job?

Dineo: I think it’s problematic because they are contracted to do other work. They might not be immunized, they are not given proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to do such duties. It’s just not the right thing to do. You have not protected the people but have asked them to do dangerous work. They are also not trained to do this job. I have trained them on a basic level, but I still have fears because they aren’t mandated to do this work. But dangerous medical waste would pile up everywhere if I didn’t have their assistance.

Luqman: Why is it important for there to be better waste management facilities in hospitals?

Dineo: People don’t see the value because it’s things we don’t see with our eyes. People don’t understand that waste can make us sick. The waste generated from health institutions is full of bacteria, bodily fluids, blood; there’s a lot of infected people with HIV or TB. If we don’t manage this waste properly, any person can come and touch this waste and infect themselves. There’s a risk of health workers being infected and there’s also issues of cross contamination. The waste sometimes ends up in general waste and this increases the possibilities of needle prick injuries. Again, we’re trying to look after the environment. We don’t want to pollute the environment, the ground water. We don’t want our waste ending up in our communities and affecting our children and the public. These days you find children playing in dump sites. They might come across needles. If we don’t take care of our needles, our children will play with them and infect each other. Even the workers and the patients here have to be protected. We are also trying to decrease the spread of infectious diseases and the mortality rate.

Luqman: How many needle prick accidents have you had as a result of poor waste disposal?

Dineo: In our hospital, we have near misses. Sometimes when the needle buckets are full, the nurses will remove them from their work-spaces and place them in the passage way. Sometimes you find no one is collecting in the passage; maybe I’m not at work or I’m attending a meeting. Our institutions also have kids. Sometimes you find that they come and fiddle with the needles. Sometimes we find needles in the general waste, but so far we haven’t had any injuries. On average we have about two near misses a month. Last year we had more staff to deal with collection, but we’ve lost those staff members, so the number of near-misses is rising. The near misses are usually reported by the cleaners. Sometimes they find a needle on the floor while they are cleaning. Other times we catch kids while they are playing with medical waste.

Luqman: What would you like to see done differently

Dineo: It would be nice to have waste handlers in our structures and to work with management that understands the importance of waste management. We don’t have people who can be our power when it comes to operations. We have a well-structured waste area but it is not overseen by anyone. It’s not being cleaned. *The name of the health officer has been changed, to protect the identity of the individual

*The name of the health officer has been changed, to protect the identity of the individual

April 10, 2017Global

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Peter Orris Receives Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Global Health

We are proud to announce that Dr. Peter Orris, Senior Adviser to HCWH, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Global Health by the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) during the 15th World Congress on Public Health that took place in Melbourne, Australia, from April 3-7, 2017. This award was given in recognition of Dr. Orris’ work in the context of the WFPHA’s Environmental Health Working Group and in campaigns to improve environmental health.

Dr. Orris, MD, MPH, is a Professor and Chief of Service at the Occupational Health Service Institute within the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System. The strategic work of Dr. Orris with the WFPHA, the World Medical Association, the World Health Organization and other organizations has been critical to the worldwide environmental health movement.

Dr. Orris has also been a major force for linking the practice of medicine with human rights, equality, occupational safety and environmental sustainability. He was one of HCWH’s founders in 1996 and has advised communities all over the world on the dangers of incineration and other toxic chemical exposures. As one of the leaders in Health Care Without Harm, Dr. Orris attended every negotiating session of the Minamata Treaty on Mercury. He was the critical clinical voice in the negotiations to inform governments about the dangers of mercury, the availability of safer measuring devices, and the momentum of the healthcare sector in eliminating mercury from their facilities. As a result of his advocacy with HCWH staff and allies around the world, the Minamata Treaty contains a provision for the global phase out of mercury based measuring devices by the year 2020.

Read Dr. Orris’ acceptance speech at the 15th World Congress on Public Health.


April 7, 2017Global

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Brazil | Ban of the Sale of Mercury Thermometers

The National Health Surveillance Agency of Brazil (ANVISA) approved, on March 7, 2017, a resolution that bans the sale of mercury thermometers and blood pressure measurement devices that contain mercury.

This measurement will start in 2019, one year prior to the date identified in the Minamata Convention on Mercury, in which 140 countries committed to eliminate the mercury from all medical instruments by 2020. With this resolution, Brazil becomes an example for the entire region.

To read the official resolution (in Portuguese), click here.

For more information on the effects of mercury in health care, click here.

March 28, 2017Global

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Brazil | Ban of the Mercury Containing Medical Devices

In March of 2017, Brazil took an integral and important step towards mercury free health care. A new resolution, published by the National Health Surveillance Agency of Brazil, effectively bans the fabrication, importation, and sale of mercury based thermometers and blood pressure measurement devices in the country as of 1 January 2019.

This resolution demonstrates the commitment of Brazil to the Minamata Convention, a global agreement signed by 140 countries to phase out mercury containing products by 2020.

Proyecto Hospitais Saudáveis, HCWH’s strategic partner in Brazil, has been working towards the ban of mercury since 2008 through the campaign "MercuryFree Healthcare." Created by Health Care Without Harm and the World Health Organization (WHO), this campaign aimed to eliminate the use of mercury containing medical devices and replace them with safe, precise, and affordable alternatives.

For more information (in Portuguese), click here.

March 28, 2017Global

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Interview with Gary Cohen: Global Warming is a Public Health Nightmare

Source: The Real News

Kim Brown from the Real News Network, in Baltimore, interviewed Gary Cohen (HCWH's President and Founder) to discuss the role the healthcare sector can play, in not only mitigating the health impacts from climate change, but also helping communities to adapt to a warmer world.

"At a broad level, the kind of changes that we're seeing, as a result of climate change, will have profound negative impacts on everybody on the planet. We've never really faced, as a global civilization, this level of public health threat. The Lancet, commissioned in the UK, which is a very prominent health journal, has called climate change the greatest public health threat of the 21st century," says Cohen.

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March 6, 2017Global

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