The energy burden and environmental impact of health services

Am J Public Health. 2012 Dec;102(12):e76-82. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300776. Epub 2012 Oct 18.


Objectives: We reviewed the English-language literature on the energy burden and environmental impact of health services.

Methods: We searched all years of the PubMed, CINAHL, and ScienceDirect databases for publications reporting energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, or the environmental impact of health-related activities. We extracted and tabulated data to enable cross-comparisons among different activities and services; where possible, we calculated per patient or per event emissions.

Results: We identified 38 relevant publications. Per patient or per event, health-related energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are quite modest; in the aggregate, however, they are considerable. In England and the United States, health-related emissions account for 3% and 8% of total national emissions, respectively.

Conclusions: Although reducing health-related energy consumption and emissions alone will not resolve all of the problems of energy scarcity and climate change, it could make a meaningful contribution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change / statistics & numerical data
  • Energy-Generating Resources / statistics & numerical data*
  • England
  • Environment*
  • Greenhouse Effect / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Facilities / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Water Supply / statistics & numerical data