Healthy World, Healthy Nation, Healthy You

Making Hospitals Healthier~ The Social Responsibility of Health Care Institutions to Reduce Costly and Harmful Waste.

Erin Johnson MPH, MSN, RN
Assistant Clinical Professor
College of Nursing & Health Professions
Drexel University


Erin-JohnsonErin Johnson is an environmentalist and a nurse. Interested in the intersection between human and environmental health, Erin Johnson has worked with a variety of organizations focused on these areas. Erin is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor teaching community and global health courses at Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Erin serves as an at-large member of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association Environmental Health Committee, volunteers as an RN at Puentes de Salud community health clinic, and is on the board of the local chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Previously, Erin directed the environmental sustainability programs department of a Philadelphia nonprofit. Along with work on other environmental committees, she co-chaired the Urban Sustainability Forum Steering Committee, a group of more than 15 regional organizations working to advance the sustainability of the Philadelphia region. Previously, Erin also worked for the Montana Conservation Corps, for an educational farm in New York, and at an organic apiary in Germany.

For Erin’s Master’s of Public Health capstone project, she researched the environmental health assessment practices of home health care nurses in Chester, PA, a regional “environmental justice community.” Erin Johnson holds BSN (2009), MSN and MPH (2011) degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned a BA in Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (1997).


This program focuses on the intersection between health care institutions and the environment.

“Hospitals have healing as their core value, yet they unwittingly contribute to chronic disease in our society by selling junk food, being enormous users of toxic chemicals and energy resources, and generating a ton of waste,” said Gary Cohen, president of the nonprofit group Health Care Without Harm that organized the initiative.

Why Consumers Need to Know

  • Build your awareness about what Practice Green Health and Healthcare Without Harm are working on – look them up on the internet, read up on what all of this means. Sign up for their mailing lists – they have action emails on legislative issues, for example
  • On their websites, or just by asking, find out what your local hospital is doing to reduce it’s environmental footprint – they may be doing a lot, or they may just be embarking on the process. Write the Chief Operations Officer an advocacy letter indicating your support of greening initiatives for a healthier community and healthier patient environment.
  • Take steps to reduce your own environmental footprint by reducing fossil fuels use and energy waste, water waste, by consuming fewer things that are hard to biologically get rid of (like plastics), and by eating less red meat which takes a lot of water and energy to raise and produce

3 Key Points:

  1. Hospitals need to take a leadership role at the board level to address waste concerns because it is good for the health of the community as well as for the bottom line in saving money for the organization—both short term and long term gains.
  2. There are hidden impacts on those who live in the environment and these contribute to the patient experience as well as to the health of the employees who work in such environments.
  3. Consumers can take positive and needed action as they assess their hospitals of choice.

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