Carbon footprint reduction associated with a surgical outreach clinic

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Background: Healthcare systems generate substantial carbon footprints that may be targeted to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Outreach clinics may represent tools to assist in this reduction by optimizing patient related travel. Therefore, we sought to estimate the carbon footprint savings associated with a head and neck surgery outreach clinic. Methods: This study was a cross-sectional survey of patient travel patterns to a surgical outreach clinic compared to a regional cancer treatment centre from December 2019 to February 2020. Participants completed a self-administered survey of 12 items eliciting travel distance, vehicle details, and ability to combine medical appointments. Canadian datasets of manufacturer provided vehicular efficiency were used to estimate carbon emissions for each participant. Geographic information systems were used for analyses. Results: One hundred thirteen patients were included for analysis. The majority of patients (85.8%) used their own personal vehicle to travel to the outreach clinic. The median distance to the clinic and regional centre were 29.0 km (IQR 6.0–51.9) and 327.0 km (IQR 309.0–337.0) respectively. The mean carbon emission reduction per person was therefore 117,495.4 g (SD: 29,040.0) to 143,570.9 g (SD: 40,236.0). This represents up to 2.5% of an average individual’s yearly carbon footprint. Fewer than 10% of patients indicated they were able to carpool or group their appointments. Conclusion: Surgical outreach clinics decrease carbon footprints associated with patient travel compared to continued care at a regional centre. Further research is needed to determine possible interventions to further reduce carbon emissions associated with the surgical care of patients. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]




Forner, D., Purcell, C., Taylor, V., Noel, C. W., Pan, L., Rigby, M. H., … Taylor, S. M. (2021). Carbon footprint reduction associated with a surgical outreach clinic. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, 50(1).

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