Healthcare and cycling groups call for more focus from hospitals on active travel.
The Sustainability Committee of the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland, Cyclist.ie and Irish Doctors for the Environment have come together to recognise the best Irish public hospital for their commitment to active travel.
A complex transport network is needed to move goods, staff and patients in healthcare. There is a significant carbon footprint associated with this. Personal travel accounts for approximately 10% of the carbon footprint in some healthcare settings (1). By encouraging active transport, we are not only reducing emissions but also improving the cardiorespiratory health of the communities in which we work.
Air pollution contributes to 1500 premature deaths in Ireland every year and road traffic is a major contributor to these pollutants (3,4). Considering the HSE employs approximately 100,000 people (2), enabling staff to cycle, walk or use public transport to reach these facilities could potentially remove thousands of cars from the roads.
The inaugural winner of the award is St James’s Hospital in Dublin for their excellent commitment to active travel promotion at their Dublin campus.
Barry McKenna, Sustainability Manager at St James’s Hospital says “As a leading healthcare institution we recognise the importance and benefits of active travel. To support our cyclists and encourage others to take up cycling we’ve trebled bike parking in the hospital, provided showers, locker and drying room facilities, offered a free monthly “Cycleclinic” and bike maintenance workshops, promoted the Bike to Work Scheme, provided a fleet of ebikes for staff, and hosted an annual charity cycle. We aspire to be a leading cycle friendly campus by continuing to actively promote and facilitate cycling as a means of commuting.”
Mary Sinnott of Cyclist.ie adds “In the hospital environment, those who participate in active travel are best equipped to encourage active lives which can significantly improve physical and mental health. Recognizing staff at St James’s hospital with the Active Transport award shows how hospitals can promote healthy lifestyles amongst their workers and visitors.”
Dr Sophia Angelov of the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland, who carried out the initial hospital transport study, says “Hospitals should be the centre of sustainability – starting by encouraging and facilitating staff to travel to work actively. What we aim to award is a clear commitment by a hospital to improve active transport facilities at, within, and enroute to the site (by lobbying road authorities). We initially collected quantitative data to inform us how well networked our hospitals are. Then we sought to see how hospitals encourage staff to utilise healthier forms of travel (bicycle user groups, cycling skills training etc). Future work on this topic aims to expand the research and collect data on the facilities available for patients, visitors, and students to reach hospitals in a healthy way.”
Dr Colm Byrne from Irish Doctors for the Environment says “The climate crisis is a health crisis and health care workers need to show leadership in tackling it. Active travel or taking public transport is an important step in climate action. And there are added benefits; walking and cycling are great for our health, with some studies demonstrating a 40% reduction in mortality amongst cycling commuters. Therefore, we are delighted to announce this award which aims to highlight excellence in sustainable transport at Irish Hospitals.”
Prof Donal O’Shea, consultant endocrinologist specialising in obesity and honorary president of Cyclist.ie says “It is great to see Irish hospitals showing leadership in promoting active transport. We know it is the activity that you build into your day to day living that is the most important for your overall health. The health sector needs to be blazing the trail in demonstrating that healthy modes of transport are achievable, enjoyable and sustainable.”