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Environmental Health Clinic provides “green” health care at Women’s College Hospital

April 16, 2012

Did you know that over one million Canadians have been diagnosed with environmental health-related illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and environmental sensitivities? People that are suffering from environmental sensitivities deal with symptoms such as headache, fatigue, asthma, insomnia, depression, lack of co-ordination or balance, and anxiety with exposure to triggers such as a fragrance.

At Women’s College Hospital (WCH), Gloria Fraser, nurse education co-ordinator, Environmental Health Clinic, works with these patients and helps them cope and manage these complex conditions. 

“Environmental illnesses that are caused by environmental contaminants are preventable,” says Fraser. “Exposure assessments and health promotion to reduce exposure to contaminants can improve quality of life and actually save health-care dollars.”

To promote healthy environments, Fraser’s nursing practice involves developing educational tools and presentations, publishing the bi-annual Environmental News newsletter and mentoring nursing students.

What’s more, she is a province of Ontario resource, educating clients, the public and health-care professionals about environmental health issues. This includes providing assessments for patients and health promotion, and health-care management resources for health professionals.

Patients with environmentally-related chronic illness can be affected by chemicals,    adds Fraser. “By removing chemical pollutants in their home and work environments, eating a healthy diet, doing a well-tolerated exercise such as walking, regular rest and medical support, patients often say their quality of life improves.”

According to Fraser, being green is more than just energy efficiency.  It involves the use of green and natural substances in personal and cleaning products and the use of natural materials such as cotton at home, at work and within the hospital.

“We need to focus on the quality of our environments,” says Fraser. “This includes indoor air quality, water quality, the quality of light and quality of life outside our building.”

Providing “green” health care at Women’s College is threefold:

  1. The Green Team promotes the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), the use of green cleaning and personal products, and energy conservation at the hospital.
  2. Fraser has provided peer education during Nursing Week encouraging nurses to integrate environmental assessments into their practice.
  3. Hospital departments such as the family practice unit and psychiatry have initiated strategies to green their work environments, such as staff using their own cups for coffee, promoting paperless communication and encouraging staff to shut off lights and computers prior to leaving their office space.

For more information on the Environmental Health Clinic at WCH, click here.

Gloria Fraser, nurse education coordinator, Environmental Health Clinic
Gloria Fraser, nurse education co-ordinator, Environmental Health Clinic
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