Reflections on Sustainable Health

Community Garden adjacent to Belhaven Hospital, Dunbar

What does sustainable health mean? How can awareness of sustainable development improve our current health care system? These were among the topics discussed at Sustainable Health Scotland 2016, held in the Golden Jubilee Conference Centre in Glasgow on 22 September. Here SCCAN steering group member Pam reflects on the day.

There were engaging talks throughout the day, most of which linked healthy eating and healthy homes with keeping the planet healthy.  Lisa Glass from Shelter shared that  35% of Scottish households are in fuel poverty, although only part of that percentage are also in income poverty.  She made a moving case for health professionals to be able to signpost people to housing help when confronted with children suffering severe respiratory problems from damp, mouldy accommodation.  Alastair Brown, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Glasgow, spoke about the big issues common across cities: water, migration and inequality.  Louise Needham from Quorn, who provided the catering for the event, told us that carbon emissions from cattle have surpassed emissions from transport, worldwide.  I attended a session delivered by the Sustainable Managed Scotland Health Network (SMaSH) where an audience poll showed that over 90% of people in the room were vegetarians or meat reducers. (These are health care professionals for the most part….) There were sessions on sustainable transport, lighting, green spaces, and energy efficiency within the NHS estate.
For me the day was rounded off very well indeed by Anaesthetist Consultant, Dr Frank Swinton:

“First, cause no harm” is a phrase the medical profession lives by.  Dr Swinton added that this needs to apply beyond the person standing in front of you.  It needs to be applied to the wider world.


It would be exciting to explore more what the role of SCCAN members is in a sustainably healthy Scotland. Perhaps some inspiration can be drawn from this project from Sustaining Dunbar, where cooperation with NHS Lothian was established to build a community garden.

If you have any good examples from where you live – get in touch!