Weekly health watch with items on the challenges hospitals face to go green, the correlation between second-born children and autism, the health benefits of optimism and more.
For hospitals, going green can be a challenge. However, the health care industry has been making important changes so that facilities become not only stewards of patients, but also stewards of the earth.
"Because of their 24-hour nature and the need for infection control, hospitals have, historically, been one of the biggest generators of waste and consumers of water and electricity in a community," says Llora Wonder, vice president of marketing for health care products maker Medline Industries, Inc. "Many hospitals have now launched initiatives to conserve resources, lower their consumption costs and reduce their negative impact on the environment."
Facilities trying to go green are focusing on two main problem areas: reducing waste and curtailing water consumption.
A study written by Dr. Martin Markay, a gastrointestinal surgeon at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, stated the health industry is the second-largest contributor to landfills after the food industry.
Hospitals generate about 6.9 million tons of waste annually, according to Slate.com's environmental blog, The Green Lantern. The cost has spurred hospitals to introduce a number of waste reduction initiatives, such as:
* Replacing disposable cups, plates and tableware in cafeterias and food service with reusable items.
* Using rechargeable batteries in equipment whenever possible.
* Reprocessing and remanufacturing certain low-risk devices, such as elastic bandages, pressure infuser bags, tourniquet cuffs and general-use surgical scissors.
The American Hospital Association reports that there are nearly 11,000 registered and community hospitals in the United States. A study on Boston-area hospitals found they used 40 to 350 gallons of water per patient per day, according to EnergyStar.gov.
"With the water and sewer costs of these facilities averaging over 20 percent of total utility costs, the more efficient hospitals can deliver quality patient care at lower cost," reads the website.
Hospitals use the most water in their laundry facilities for items like bed linens and patient gowns. Studies show that a hospital with more than 300 beds can use between 21 and 22 pounds of textiles per patient per day, which is why laundry accounts for most energy and water use.
Eliminating laundry services isn't feasible, so many hospitals are taking steps to lower the energy, water and chemicals needed to clean textiles and extend their life cycle. Some of the changes include:
* Using surgical gowns, barrier sheets and other products made from reusable, more durable and energy-efficient textiles. A hospital will spend less energy, use fewer chemicals for cleaning and will need to replace items less frequently.
* Replacing old single-use underpads that are used to protect hospital beds with high-tech versions that require just one pad to do the job of three.
New Research: Second-born children and autism
A new study found that second-born children were more than three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism if they were conceived within 12 months of the birth of their older sibling.
Did You Know?
The national average for seat belt use is up to 85 percent; crash-related injuries are treated in emergency departments every 14 seconds.
An untreated ear infection can lead to hearing loss, or it can spread infection to nearby structures in the head. See a doctor immediately if you suspect one.
-- The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Number to Know
0.7: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wants to replace the recommended amount of fluoride added to drinking water, which is a range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams, with a new recommendation of 0.7 milligrams.
Children’s Health: Optimism staves off depression
Being optimistic does make a difference in teen mental health and behavior, especially against the onset of depressive symptoms. A study assessed 5,634 students aged 12 to 14 over three years on optimistic thinking style, emotional problems, substance use and antisocial behaviors.
Levels of optimism in boys remained stable, but there were marked falls in optimism across the study in girls. Optimistic teens were doing much better in terms of health risks. Risks for later onset of depression in adolescents who reported high levels of optimism were almost half those of the least optimistic.
-- American Academy of Pediatrics
Senior Health: Exercise helps you live longer
Studies suggest that continuing to exercise throughout one’s middle-aged years and beyond is an effective way to promote life longevity free of chronic disease or disability.
"If you had to pick one thing, one single thing that came closest to the fountain of youth," says Dr. James Fries, a pioneer researcher on healthy aging at Stanford University. "Then it would have to be exercise."
Exercise helps maintain weight, cope with stress, promotes healthy blood vessels for good circulation and stems loss in bone density and muscle mass. It also promotes, overall, a healthy heart and lungs.
GateHouse News Service