Nonrenewable Material and Energy Resources
Fifty years after “The Limits to Growth”, Meadow’s report
Like any economic sector, the social health protection (SHP) sector consumes nonrenewable material and energy resources to function. It consumes resources to transport patients, staff and goods, and to build and operate hospitals and other physical health-related infrastructures. SHP systems implement health prevention policies such as SHP policies However, there are many physical and socioeconomic limits to dependence on these resources, including supply and flow limits, social limits, geopolitical limits, health limits, and economic limits. Universal access to essential and affordable health care, and the provision of financial protection during illness, accident, and maternity require these resources. Without them, universal access to essential and affordable health care cannot be ensured, and financial protection during illness, accident, and maternity becomes irrelevant.
The key role of nonrenewable material and energy resources in the functioning of the health sector raises questions about the sector’s vulnerability to shortages and supply chain disruptions, and thus its long-term resilience. Yet, while monetary analyses of SHP policies abound, there is a shortage of analyses on the physical dimensions of these policies. There is an urgent need to measure the use of nonrenewable material and energy resources by SHP systems so that their vulnerability to variations in supply can be better understood and addressed to improve their resilience.
P4H collaborations presented at the Geneva Health Forum and PMAC 2023
Under the overall theme of “COVID-19 Pandemic and Environmental Emergency: Reinventing Global Health in Times of Global Changes,” the P4H Network led a panel at the Geneva Health Forum 2022 (3-5 May 2022).
The objective of the panel was to build interest in a collaborative action-research group to deepen the collective understanding of the present challenges to SHP that the depletion of nonrenewable material and energy consumption pose to long-term resilience in health systems. The network proposed to several partners from China, France, Singapore and Switzerland to limit the scope of such research to two specific items used in the COVID-19 response – masks and oxygen – to jointly develop an initial methodology that could be fine-tuned at a later stage and applied to broader segments of health systems and SHP.
In January 2023, P4H presented a poster entitled “Assessing the Nonrenewable Material and Energy Resources Needed to Advance Resilient Social Health Protection Systems” at the Prince Mahidol Award Conference 2023 (27-29 January). The conference theme was “Setting a New Health Agenda – at the Nexus of Climate Change, Environment and Biodiversity.” The poster builds on P4H’s work over the past year on the link between physical resources and SHP systems. The poster provides the first physical analysis of SHP systems, including health systems, and of their dependence on nonrenewable material and energy resources. The poster shows the exponential correlation between the development of SHP systems and their energy consumption. The more developed and efficient a system is, the higher its UHC Service Coverage Index, and the more energy it consumes.
SHP systems also need resources. However, the more resources they consume, the more they increase their exposure to supply crises and thus their vulnerability to shortages. Scarcity of nonrenewable material and energy resources can be anticipated and forestalled by reducing demand and adapting SHP systems. Therefore, it is urgent to integrate physical dimensions into the financial analyses of SHP systems to deepen our collective understanding, improve equity, and inform further action.