Buddhism In Action: Health Promoting Hospitals Integrates Living The Change Movement

Tzu Chi Medical Foundation  |  January 20, 2020

Op-Ed by Dr. Mingnan Lin
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

Tzu Chi USA in partnership with Living the Change will be bringing you stories of real-life journeys and struggles in reducing our everyday impact on the climate. You’ll find these accounts inspired by honesty, sincerity, faith, a deep love for the Earth, and the desire to embrace compassion – the way Living the Change seeks to engage every individual.

The role of the healthcare sector includes the treatment and prevention of diseases in addition to maintaining one’s health. However, the healthcare sector is also among the most intensive and energy-consuming industries. Far too many of its byproducts include toxins and medical waste, which can ultimately undermine the health of patients. 

In an era of accelerating climate change, the healthcare industry must assume responsibility by addressing its impact on the environment, while striving to be the best it can be for all those it serves. The healthcare industry has a credible voice in providing better, more environmentally friendly health care services to individual patients and global communities. Now is the time for hospitals to take action and tackle the climate crisis. 

Following and adhering to the teachings of Dharma Master Cheng Yen, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is committed to recycling and environmental protection. Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital is one of seven Tzu Chi Hospitals in Taiwan to introduce the application of Earth-friendly alternatives since its inauguration in 2000. In 2007, Dalin Tzu Chi hospital introduced the Health Promoting Hospitals (HPH) project to staff and patients. 

Environmental sustainability is one of our most important cultural and social responsibilities, and urges us to action for our health and the health of the environment.

Since 2010, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation (TCMF) has worked alongside the International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services (International HPH Network) to help establish a task force on HPH and the Environment, and initiated a series of interventions to facilitate the process of creating greener hospitals. The current chair and vice-superintendent of Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital is Dr. Ming-Nan Lin.

We have furthermore spurred the additional six Tzu Chi Hospitals in Taiwan to explore and implement these strategies of environmental sustainability. Our long-term goal is to become a full-fledged green hospital.

Tzu Chi Hospitals are also members of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network (GGHH). With excellent hospital leadership and support in addition to following the 10 goals of GGHH, Tzu Chi hospitals have adopted a series of low-carbon hospital initiatives, uses green architecture, and engages in careful recycling habits in its daily operation. This integration of environmental conservation has likewise won the hospital numerous national and international awards.

All Tzu Chi Hospitals provide a plant-based diet. Vegetarianism is a pragmatic approach to supporting our planet’s health while also benefiting human health. A 2007 cohort study conducted in Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital revealed that a planted-based diet could decrease the morbidity of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and gout gall stone.

However, we also face challenges in further reducing the environmental impact from within the hospital. A wide range of potentially infectious or chemical waste created in the hospital requires special treatment. Most of it will be incinerated under the regulations set forth by the government, which in turn produces more greenhouse gases. In the future, we hope revisions can be made to these regulations, and that they may undergo more extensive considerations in the determination of balanced policies for sustainable waste management. 

Concurrently, Tzu Chi Hospitals will continue to motivate and examine our movement to face the climate emergency by sharing reliable practices with national and international healthcare organizations, NGOs, and additional public sectors. 

In 2018, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation hosted the Green Hospital Asia Conference in Taipei, where there were representatives from more than 20 Asian countries in attendance. Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital had signed a memorandum of understanding with international healthcare organizations in Singapore, the Philippines, Nepal, and Malaysia, in collaborative research and faculty exchange of green hospital programs. For implementing the SDG agenda of the United Nations, Tzu Chi hospitals will continue building upon these crucial environmental protection programs. As we further these local actions with a global vision, we sincerely hope we can contribute to a better tomorrow together. 

Learn more about Ethical Eating Day and Living the Change to see how you can make a difference.

Ming-Nan Lin, MD, MPH – Contributor

Ming-Nan Lin is currently the Vice Superintendent at Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, Taiwan. He has a Master’s degree in public health and devoted himself to community outreach and international disaster relief. He is also in charge of the green hospital programs at the Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital, which won the 2013 International Environment-Friendly Hospital Team Work Best Practice Award by the International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals and a gold medal in leadership of Health Care Climate Challenge 2020 by Global Green and the Healthy Hospital Network.