Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What Drove the Success of MD H2E?
Joan Plisko, PhD, Director

After 10 years of operation from the University of Maryland, Baltimore – seven years at the School of Nursing and three years at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the School of Medicine – MD H2E is closing December 31st 2015. MD H2E was initially developed as a short-lived statewide initiative to improve worker, patient, and community health through the elimination of mercury and toxics from aging and inefficient medical waste incinerators. The environmental and health footprint of hospitals was much larger than MD H2E staff first anticipated, so we revised our mission: to catalyze environmental health and sustainability in Maryland’s health care community.

MD H2E was a fantastic success. Here are five reasons I believe this to be true:

1.      Power in the People: MD H2E cultivated and empowered a diverse set of people and created meaningful collaborations. With over 30 staff coming and going over the course of a decade, Barb Sattler, Louise Mitchell, and Joan Plisko spearheaded and managed the initiative over its lifespan. Our power was our people! We cared. The MD H2E Advisory Board was a huge attribute as well, with two members participating for the entirety – Laura Armstrong of Maryland Department of the Environment and Cecilia DeLoach of Practice Green Health.

2.      Multipronged Approach: MD H2E utilized a multipronged approach to assist participants in developing and implementing programs. We conducted audits, held campaigns, wrote case studies, held on-site meeting, initiated pilot projects, launched leadership councils, and more. From the basement to the boardroom and from anesthesia to x-ray, MD H2E staff met hospital staff where they were. MD H2E staff nurses visited hospitals nurses on different shifts to deliver messages relating environment to health and MD H2E staff presented at a variety of association conferences and meetings.

3.      Created Community: MD H2E created a learning and sharing community where members relied on one another for solution building and problem solving. We utilized technical resources of Practice Green Health and Health Care Without Harm to engage and connect folks regionally and nationally.  For five years we held the Environmental Excellence in Health Care conference; and we launched two leadership councils: the Chesapeake Food Leadership Council and the Maryland Health Care Sustainability Leadership Council.

4.       Awarded and Rewarded: MD H2E awarded and recognized participants for their successes; and publicized milestones. Over six years time we gave out 25 Trailblazer Awards to 15 distinct hospitals/health systems, representing 25 percent of the hospitals in Maryland. We also recognized Environmental Health Nurses and an Environmental Health Physician. In 2015, five Maryland hospitals were listed amongst the fifty greenest hospitals in America. MD H2E won the Practice Green Health Champion for Change award every year from 2007-2015!

5.      Got the Word Out: MD H2E utilized multiple modes of communication to “get the word out” to as many interested stakeholders as possible. Over 10 years, we penned 100 environmental health and sustainability newsletters as well as 15 newsletters, dedicated specifically to sustainable foods. At the conclusion of our initiative, our list sev had grown to 2,000 people.

Overall, our power was in our people. We created and maintained community and enjoyed every moment of it. And our timing was just right!

Thanks to all of you for being part of this fantastic community and journey.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Commentary by Dr. Joan Plisko, Director of MD H2E

I have spent a decade dedicated to healthcare environmental sustainability in Maryland. For a large part of that time, I worked with Barb Sattler and Louise Mitchell, both visionaries in the field. While they are not part of MD H2E as we wind down the initiative, their/our collective legacy remains as the bedrock of MD H2E’s success.

Ten years ago, we were knocking, no banging, on doors to get hospitals to listen to our messages. First – stop burning mercury, plastics, and other potential toxic material in old, decaying, inefficient incinerators; its bad for patients, bad for staff and bad for community members. Second – stop using toxic pesticides in places where vulnerable populations are trying to heal. Third – feed patients and staff healthy, local, sustainable food. And guess what? They listened! Not all at once and not everyone on all fronts, but as a collective, hospitals listened, asked questions of us and of each other, and they changed practice.

My first presentation for MD H2E was a ten step process for recycling batteries. It was a pragmatic approach to decreasing waste. Fast forward ten years, I am preparing a presentation on stormwater management for health care providers. In between my first and most likely last presentations, MD H2E staff have presented on so many environmental and sustainability topics that we found significant and important (e.g., hazardous pharmaceuticals, climate change, regulatory compliance). We were able to be creative and authentic in our scope of work for one main reason: our generous and faithful funders believed in us. And to them, I owe my gratitude – for  believing in the efforts of a small but mighty group that transformed a culture in Maryland and set an example for the country.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Food Day announces 2015 theme

We are very pleased to announce the theme for Food Day 2015: Toward a Greener Diet. This year’s Food Day will celebrate a green and healthy diet that is packed with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean sources of protein, and that is produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it. A greener diet is beneficial to both human health and to the environment. It leads to less chronic disease, better soil, more and cleaner water, and cleaner air.

Mark your calendar now for Food Day on October 24, and join millions of Americans across the country in celebration of real food. That means cutting back on sugar drinks, overly salted packaged foods, and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein.

Stay tuned for more resources on an initiative we are launching with other national partners to serve as many “green” meals around the country on and around Food Day as we can. Whether you’ll cook a meal at your home with friends, for your school district, or your hospital, be ready to join the national movement Toward a Greener Diet on Food Day and every day!

Be sure to let us know your facilities plans for Food Day, Oct 24, 2015!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

 Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (MD H2E) honored four Maryland hospitals/ health systems as environmental “Trailblazers,” for their recent innovative achievements. Additionally, MD H2E honored two healthcare professionals for their dedication to environmental health and sustainability. All winners serve as models for those seeking to reduce their environmental footprint and raise the bar on improved results. 
Joan Plisko, Director of MD H2E, presented the awards at the Maryland Hospital Association annual meeting, June 1st, at the Four Seasons Baltimore. The winners are:
Adventist Healthcare (AHC) established a $3 million efficiency investment fund to be managed as a stand-alone, return-based financing mechanism. The fund directed investments into sustainability projects such as LED parking garage retrofits and water conservation measures, with a payback of just over two years. AHC reduced the 2015 budgets for electricity, gas and water by 10 percent, 9 percent and 3 percent, respectively. AHC saved 4.7 million kWh of electricity, 4,500 therms of gas, and over 3 million gallons of water. These savings kept an equivalent amount of emissions out of the air as the carbon sequestered by 4,000 acres of United States forests in a year, the energy used by 500 homes for a year and the burning of 6 million pounds of coal.
Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) diverted over 7,000 tons of deconstruction debris from a planned demolition on campus. GBMC razed the outdated North Chapman building to accommodate additional valet parking amenities. A total of 97 percent of the material was re-used or recycled, and crushable material was processed onsite and used as backfill for the new project’s foundation. GBMC provided a portion of the construction and crushed materials to Baltimore’s Waverly Elementary School and to local reclamation businesses, putting resources into the local economy.
The Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) bio-decontaminated over $90,000 worth of supplies from 18 isolation patient rooms using vaporized hydrogen peroxide during a 2014 pilot project. Previously, supplies from these rooms, when not used, were discarded after patient discharge. The JHH materials management team collected, decontaminated and used these supplies. The team captured and returned to inventory and circulation over 4,000 pounds of materials otherwise destined for the landfill.
Lifebridge Health (LBH) instituted a greening the operating room program by creating sustainability champions as part of surgical teams. LBH focused on waste reduction efforts by empowering employees and making them an integral part of the greening process. As a result of this systemic culture change, LBH reduced medical waste in the operating rooms by 35 percent at Sinai and Northwest hospitals.  Both hospitals continue to generate only 10 percent of their overall waste as regulated medical waste, which is considered low among hospitals.
Physician for a Healthy Environment: Dr. Lauren Berkow, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, is a leader in educating and empowering physicians to become more engaged in sustainability efforts. Dr. Berkow has played an active role in sustainability efforts at JHH to green the operating room and speaks internationally on the role of physicians and anesthesiologists in reducing waste, costs and greenhouse gasses.
Environmental Health in Nursing: Justin Graves, RN, University of Maryland Medical Center, is a nationally recognized sustainability manager, skilled in collaboration and sharing best management practices. Justin chairs the hospital green team, spearheaded programs in waste reduction and healthy foods, and has identified opportunities to change hospital purchasing programs that save money and reduce environmental impact.

The winners will be sharing their success stories and lessons learned at the MD H2E Trailblazer Event, scheduled for October 23rd, 2015 at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Maryland Hospitals win big in Oregon!

MD H2E would like to congratulate the following Maryland Hospitals for their recent achievements as honorees of Practice Greenhealth, the nation's leading health care community that empowers its members to increase their efficiencies and environmental stewardship while improving patient safety and care through tools, best practices and knowledge. Practice Greenhealth held their annual conference and awards ceremonies last week in Portland.

  Circles of Excellence:
Bon Secours Hospital, Baltimore (Leadership)
Medstar Good Samaritan Hospital (Chemicals)
Johns Hopkins Hospital (Greening the OR)
University of Maryland Medical Center (Greening the OR, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing)

Greenhealth Emerald Awardees:
Bon Secours Hospital, Baltimore
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center
Northwest Hospital
Sinai Hospital
University of Maryland Medical Center

Greenhealth Partner for Change:
Greater Baltimore Medical Center
Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic
Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center
Medstar Good Samaritan Hospital
Medstar Harbor Hospital
Medstar Montgomery Medical Center
Medstar Union Memorial Hospital

Making Medicine Mercury Free:
Medstar Harbor Hospital

Partner Recognition Award:
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

For more information on Practice Greenhealth and its awards, visit

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

What is wellness? What is health?

Rachel Druckenmiller, of Rachel's Nourishing Kitchen blog, attended the Center for Integrative Medicine Health and Wellness Conference last weekend.

Rachel is
Her message and testimony sum up the event very nicely!  MD H2E is proud to be affiliated with the Center for Integrative Medicine and applauds them for a job well done at the conference.

Read Rachel's blog post here:
"An inspiring day of health, happiness and integrative health in Baltimore"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Weaving Environmental Health into Everyday Operations

MD H2E has been serving the Maryland health care community for almost ten years! We have assisted health care facilities and systems in developing green teams, establishing goals and measuring results, and in implementing a myriad of programs. We pride ourselves in bringing people together. We connect hospital managers and directors to their peers in other facilities AND we connect them to product and service suppliers as well. We serve to educate both the demand and supply side of the environmental sustainability economy.
We partner regularly and often with government agencies, industry associations, and non-profit organizations that have overlapping missions with ours – a Maryland health care system that integrates environmental health and sustainability into daily operations. 

Along those lines, MD H2E, in collaboration with the Maryland Health Care Education Institute is holding an inaugural education event, Weaving Environmental Health into Daily Operations, on June 9, 2015 at the Maryland Hospital Association. Be part of this pilot class for only $25! Enjoy the day of learning, networking, and sharing. I will be facilitating the class and look forward to sharing information and hearing from you about your successes, your struggles, and your partnerships! Register now as space is limited.

-Joan Plisko