NUS Medicine sets up new Centre for Sustainable Medicine

The new Centre – the first of its kind in Asia and the largest in the world – will accelerate Singapore’s net zero transition in healthcare and pave the way for more climate-resilient health systems

Climate change is not just an environmental crisis. It affects society at all levels, and has a direct effect on the health of populations. Extreme weather and climate events – from extreme heat and drought, to rising sea levels and air pollution – have a clear impact on human health systems (such as the cardiovascular and respiratory systems) and contributes to increased mortality and burden of disease.

At the same time, the medical sector is highly energy-intensive. It generates more than 5 million tonnes of waste each year and now contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than both the entire aviation and shipping sectors combined. Hospitals alone, according to the World Economic Forum, emit 2.5 times more greenhouse gases compared to office buildings.

How can the healthcare sector better address this conundrum? Can the teaching and practice of medicine consider the needs of future generations? How do healthcare systems drive sustainable change and reduce its carbon footprint?

To tackle these issues and the looming climate crisis, NUS’ Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine has set up the Centre for Sustainable Medicine (CoSM), the first of its kind in Asia and the largest globally.

The Centre aims to lead the healthcare profession's response to climate change, focusing on decarbonising healthcare and developing climate-resilient health systems. It will bring together experts and clinicians worldwide to establish a new field of medicine, one that will transform clinical practice.

CoSM's goals include transforming medical education, pioneering research for high-quality, low-carbon care, and supporting health policymakers and hospital administrators worldwide in transitioning to net-zero healthcare.

For example, sustainability will be embedded into the foundations of undergraduate medical school, and the Centre also plans to introduce a first-in-the-world “Masters of Sustainable Medicine” programme. Commencing in 2024, the new Master’s programme will be open to policymakers and department leads in healthcare institutions.

Led by Professor Nick Watts, the world's first Professor of Sustainable Medicine, CoSM has three early initiatives: transforming medical education through a new Clinical Fellowship in Sustainable Medicine; embarking on the first comprehensive assessment of the carbon impact of healthcare in Singapore; and hosting the first in-person meeting of the newly formed Lancet Commission on Sustainable Healthcare in March 2024.

Together, these initiatives will position NUS and Singapore as a world leader in sustainable medicine.

“Without urgent action, climate change will overwhelm health systems across the world, including Singapore. The newly minted Centre for Sustainable Medicine at NUS Medicine will tackle this challenge, helping doctors, nurses and hospitals prepare for the spread of infectious diseases and weather extremities. At the same time, it will conduct research and implement net zero healthcare across the country, directly improving the health of our patients and reducing stretched health budgets,” said Prof Watts.

CoSM will be officially launched in December 2023 during the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28), which is held in Dubai.


Read the press release here.